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Help! My skin is itchy

Last Modified: May 11, 2023

Diseases & Disorders, Family Medicine


This post was written by Heather Willison, NP, PPG – Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

Few things are as irritating as an itch. We’ve all experienced that prickling sensation – also called “pruritus” – that demands a good scratch. We often don’t consider why our skin is itchy to begin with, unless the discomfort decides to stick around for an extended period of time. There are several causes of pruritus, with some triggers being easier to pinpoint than others, and varied degrees of severity.

Conditions that can trigger itchy skin

If you find yourself scratching, it could be attributed to one of these common sources.

  • Dry skin – As our skin loses moisture it can become dry, flake and peel, which results in itching. This is also called xerosis.
  • Skin conditions –These conditions may include, but are not limited to, dermatitis (seborrheic, contact, atopic, etc.), psoriasis, eczema, folliculitis, hives, ringworm and shingles.
  • Skin cancer – A spot that changes in shape and color is often an indicator of skin cancer, but these spots will itch as well.  
  • Insect bites – Mosquitos, bed bugs, scabies and lice are all pesky bugs that can cause intense and persistent itching when they feast on your skin.
  • Allergic skin reactions – If you have an allergy, your skin might become itchy and/or develop a rash after coming into contact with an allergen, such as latex, metals, fragrances and cleansers.
  • Age – As we get older, our skin thins and loses moisture, which results in itching. 
  • Medications – Many medicines have side effects, including itching.
  • Other medical conditions – Itching sensations can be a warning sign of diabetes, liver or kidney disease, blood disease or a thyroid condition

Getting relief from itchy skin

Whether the source of the issue is simple or more complicated, there are solutions for this bothersome side effect.

  • If your skin needs a drink … The most obvious solution is to moisturize! Use dye- and fragrance-free skincare products and apply them several times a day, as needed. Products that contain dyes and fragrances also contain alcohol, which only dries the skin out more. 
  • Try something topical. There are anti-itch creams that can help to alleviate the itching associated with bug bites. (Side note: If you are dealing with an infestation of something more than mosquitos, consider contacting an exterminator to prevent future events.)
  • Assess your RX. If you recently started a medication, ask your prescribing doctor if the new medication could be causing the itching and, if so, if there’s an alternative available. 
  • Talk to your PCP. Schedule an appointment with your primary care provider for a comprehensive exam and work up to make sure that there isn’t an underlying medical condition.
  • See a specialist. If you suspect the itching could be due to an allergic reaction, visiting an allergist may be the next step. 
  • Find someone who specializes in skin. When in doubt, consult a board certified dermatologist.  As a two-time melanoma survivor, I cannot stress this more. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, especially if skin cancer is a concern.

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