We’ve all experienced itching, whether it’s an absentminded tickle or a persistent scratching. Itching, also known as pruritus, is normally a temporary problem that will resolve on its own. However, if it is persistent or irritating for long periods of time, you may wish to see your GP to check if there is an underlying cause they can treat, or if there is anything you can use for symptom relief. Read on to find out what our doctors here at London Doctors Clinic want you to know about itchy skin!
Itchy Skin: When To See A Doctor
There are a number of reasons why you should visit your GP with itchy skin. These include:
- Itchy skin and a rash
- Swelling or yellowing of the skin and the whites of your eyes
- If it lasts for a long time or is particularly severe
- If it keeps coming back
- If it is all over your body
Itching can occur in various places at once or may be localised to just one spot. In some cases it may be difficult to work out the root cause of the itching and you may be given advice on how to minimise the itching or treat the itching on its own. It may be associated with patches of redness, dry, leathery or scaly skin, bumps, spots or blisters. The more you scratch, the itchier it gets, so it is important to try and break the scratch-itch cycle as soon as you can, to avoid breaking the skin or causing an infection or scarring.
Why Is My Skin Itchy?
Common causes of itching include:
- Skin conditions such as eczema
- Dry skin
- Certain medications
- Skin reactions or allergies
- Insect bites and stings
- Hormonal changes (such as pregnancy or menopause)
- Fungal infections such as athlete's foot
- Parasitic infections such as ringworm
- Underlying conditions that include the liver, kidney or thyroid gland
Dry skin can cause irritation and itching
Underlying Conditions Causing Itching
There are many underlying internal conditions that can cause itching. These include:
These conditions normally cause an itching that affects the whole body, however the skin looks normal (apart from the areas that have been scratched). Conditions that affect the nervous system can also cause itching, such as:
How Can The GP Help?
Your GP or private doctor will ask you questions about your itching including when it occurs, whether anything makes it better or worse, whether you notice it after a particular activity or whether you have noticed any other symptoms. They will also examine your skin to see if they can see any clues (such as a rash) as to the cause of the itching.
There are also various things you can try at home to try and relieve itching, including:
- Patting or rubbing the affected area instead of scratching it
- Applying a cold compress
- Applying a moisturiser or emollient
- Changing the personal hygiene products you use to those without perfume
- Avoiding any clothes that may irritate your skin
- Purchasing over the counter antihistamines
Applying a moisturiser can relieve itching skin
There are certain things that you may find cause your skin to be itchy, and these can include perfumes, wool, soaps or dyes and chemicals. Some people with allergies can also find that holding the item they are allergic to can cause their skin to become itchy; this is known as contact dermatitis.
Treatment specifically for the itching can include corticosteroid creams. When you apply the cream, you should then apply a cold wet compress to help the cream to be absorbed by your skin and to reduce the itch. If the itching area isn’t large, some medications known as calcineurin inhibitors can be prescribed.
So if you're struggling with any skin problems, including itchiness, and are searching for a "doctor near me", don't hesitate to book in for a GP consultation at any of our central London clinics, and our doctors can provide the necessary advice and treatment you may require there and then!
By Katie Hodgkinson