Itchy Skin (or pruritus) is most often caused by dry skin (xerosis).  Dry skin usually results from external environmental factors such as low-humidity, long-term use of air conditioners or central heating, or washing and bathing too much. Itchy skin can also be caused by numerous conditions such as hives, eczema (atopic dermatitis), psoriasis, rashes, seborrheic keratosesseborrheic dermatitis, mites (scabies), lice, chickenpox, bites, or infections.  Sometimes, dry and itchy skin may be a sign of a more serious underlying medical condition such as liver disease, celiac disease, kidney disease, thyroid problems, and leukemia.

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Other possible causes:

  • Nerve disorders such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, herpes zoster (shingles) can cause itching.
  • Irritation and allergic reactions of the skin.
  • Drugs and medicatons–drug rashes can cause widespread rashes and itching of the skin.
  • Pregnancy–some women experience itchy skin during pregnancy.  In addition, many conditions, such as dermatitis and eczema, can worsen during a woman’s pregnancy.

Sometimes, a blood test or skin biopsy may be necessary to determine the cause.  The most effective treatment is to treat the underlying cause.  Topical steroid creams, oral antihistamines and moisturizers can also be effective.

Visit our patient education library for more information about dry, itchy skin treatment


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