Description: A skin sensation and/or irritation causing a desire to scratch the part affected; also known as pruritus.
Persons most commonly affected: All age groups and both sexes.
Organ or part of body involved: Skin.
Symptoms and indications: Itching can be all over (generalized) or only in a particular location (localized). The most common symptom is a rash. Other symptoms include blisters, skin pain, fever and skin flaking.
Causes and risk factors: Various causes of itch are insect bites, dry skin, contact dermatitis (poison ivy or poison oak), contact irritants (such as soaps, perfumes, chemicals, or wool), atopic dermatitis, rashes (may or may not itch), childhood infections (such as chicken pox or measles), aging skin, allergy caused by food or drugs, superficial skin infections such as folliculitis and impetigo, parasites such as pinworm, pityriasis rosea, psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, skin infection, and urticaria.
Prevention: In general, itchy skin should be treated very gently. While scratching may temporarily ease the itch, in the long run scratching just makes it worse. In addition, scratching can lead to an endless cycle of itch--scratch--more itching. Soaps are often irritating to the skin, and can make an itch worse; they should be avoided, or used only when necessary. There are certain things people can do to avoid itchy skin. Patients who tend toward itchy skin should: Avoid a daily bath, use only lukewarm water when bathing, use only gentle soap, and pat dry, not rub dry, after bathing, leaving a bit of water on the skin. Patients who are allergic to certain substances, medications, and so on can avoid the resulting itch if they avoid contact with the allergen. Avoiding insect bites, bee stings, poison ivy and so on can prevent the resulting itch. Treating sensitive skin carefully, avoiding overdrying of the skin, and protecting against diseases that cause itchy rashes are all good ways to avoid itching.