Itchy skin – symptoms, causes and other complications

Itchy skin causes symptoms

Itchy skin is irritating and uncomfortable sensation which makes us want to scratch. Itchy skin is also known as pruritus. This condition is usually caused by dry skin. Itchy skin is common in older adults because our skin tend to become drier as we are aging [1]. Depend on the cause of your itchy skin, this may appear normal. But also it can be red or rough or have blisters or bumps. Repeated scratching can cause thickened and raised areas of skin which may bleed or become infected. It is very important to use self – care measures such as taking cool baths, using anti – itch products and moisturizing because they can help you to get a relief from the itchy skin. The long – term relief of this condition means that it should be discovered the cause of itchy skin and the treatment of this cause. Itchy skin treatments are including light therapy, wet dressings and medications.

Symptoms of itchy skin

You many have itchy skin over certain small areas of your body such as a leg or an arm or you can have itchy skin over your whole body. Also itchy skin can happen without any noticeable changes on your skin. Also this condition can be associated with:

  • Leathery or scaly texture to the skin
  • Dry, cracked skin
  • Bumps, spots or blisters
  • Redness

There are some cases when the itchy skin last for long period and it can be intense. As you scratch or rub this area, it gets itchier. It is known that as our skin more itch, and then we scratch more. It is very difficult to break this itch – scratch cycle but if you continue scratching our skin, then this can damage our skin or it can cause infection. If you have noticed that your itchy skin lasts more than 2 weeks and it does not improve with the self – care measures, then you need to talk with your doctor about this problem. Also if the itchy skin comes on suddenly and it cannot be easily explained, then you need to talk with your doctor as soon as possible.

Itchy skin causes symptoms

Causes of itchy skin

Here are the possible causes of itchy skin:

  • Pregnancy: During pregnancy, there are some women who experience itchy skin, especially on their abdomen and thighs. Also there are some other itchy skin conditions such as dermatitis which can worsen during the pregnancy. [2,3]
  • Drugs: Reactions to some drugs such as narcotic pain medications, antifungal drugs and antibiotics can cause widespread rashes and itching. [4]
  • Irritation and allergic reactions: There are some products such as soaps, chemicals, wool and other substances which can irritate your skin and they can cause itching. Also there are some cases in which some substances, such as cosmetics or poison ivy, cause an allergic reaction. Also there are some cases in which food allergies can lead to itchy skin. [5]
  • Nerve disorders: There are some conditions which are affecting the nervous system, such as shingles, pinched nerves, diabetes mellitus and multiple sclerosis, which can cause itching of your skin. [6]
  • Internal diseases: There are some cases in which itchy skin is the symptom of an underlying disease. These include lymphoma, leukemia, cancer, thyroid problems, iron deficiency anemia, kidney failure and liver disease. The itching usually is affecting your whole body. Our skin may look otherwise normal except for the repeatedly scratched areas. [7]
  • Skin conditions and rashes: There are many skin conditions that itch such as hives, chickenpox, lice, scabies, psoriasis and eczema (dermatitis). The itching is usually affecting the specific areas and also it is accompanied by other signs such as blisters, bumps and red or irritated skin. [8]
  • Dry skin: If you do not see a crop of bright and red bumps or some other dramatic changes in your skin, then the dry skin is the most likely the cause for it. This condition usually results from environmental factors (such as central heating and long – term use of air conditioning), washing or bathing too much or from older ages. [1]

Complications: We all know that the itchy skin can affect the quality of our lives. Prolonged scratching and itching can increase the intensity of the itch which possibly can lead to:

  • Scarring
  • Infection
  • Skin injury


[1] Underwood E. Why getting old gives you itchy skin. Science. 2018. Retrieved from

[2] NHS. Itching and intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy – Your pregnancy and baby guide. Retrieved from

[3] Szczęch J, Wiatrowski A, Hirnle L, Reich A. Prevalence and relevance of pruritus in pregnancy. Biomed Research Interntional. 2017;2017:4238139.

[4] Brasileiro LEE, Barreto DPdC, Nunes EA. Psychotropics in different causes of itch: systematic review with controlled studies. Anais Brasileiros de Dermatologia. 2016;91(6):791–8.

[5] Columbia University Irving Medical Center. Study explains why some creams and cosmetics may cause a skin rash. Science Daily. 2020. Retrieved from

[6] Oaklander AL. Neuropathic itch. Seminars in Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery. 2011;30(2):87–92.

[7] Yonova D. Pruritus in certain internal diseases. Hippokratia. 2007;11(2):67–71.

[8] Bin Saif GA, Alotaibi HM, Alzolibani AA, et al. Association of psychological stress with skin symptoms among medical students. Saudi Medical Journal. 2018;39(1):59–66.


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