General Practice 2022

Itchy body: 7 main causes and what to do

Table of contents:

Itchy body: 7 main causes and what to do
Itchy body: 7 main causes and what to do
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Itching on the body can arise due to irritation or inflammation of the skin, such as dry skin or allergy to sweat or insect bite, not indicating any serious illness, but can also arise due to skin infections caused by fungi, viruses or bacteria, or even psychological illnesses, such as anxiety or depression, for example, which can affect a specific part of the body or the whole body.

Depending on the cause, itching on the body can be accompanied by other symptoms, such as redness, blistering, spots or sores on the skin, which can also be formed by frequent scratching.

In the presence of itching on the body, it is important to always consult a dermatologist, or a general practitioner, to evaluate the characteristics of the itching, what may have caused it, the place where it appears and if it is accompanied by other symptoms and, in this way, to be diagnosed and start the most appropriate treatment, which can be done with the use of antiallergic medication or the use of moisturizing creams, for example.

So, some of the main causes of itching and what to do in each case include:

1. Allergic reactions

Allergic reactions can cause severe itching, which may be accompanied by other symptoms such as the formation of small red or white blisters, crusts or sores on the skin. See how to identify skin allergy.

Itchy skin caused by allergic reactions can occur anywhere on the body and is caused by an irritation or inflammation of the skin, the most common causes being:

  • Excessive heat or sweating;
  • Insect bite;
  • Fabrics, cosmetics such as soaps, creams and shampoos, or cleaning products;
  • Hair of animals or plants;
  • Food;
  • Allergic reaction to medications;
  • Dust or mites from clothes, books and upholstery.

Allergy may appear in isolation or occur frequently in people who are prone to allergies, and episodes may be mild or severe, and treatment with a dermatologist may be necessary.

What to do: It is recommended that the place be washed with plenty of cold water and neutral soap, in addition to being important to avoid contact with the substance, food or object irritating. In addition, treatment with antiallergic or corticosteroids can be applied directly to the skin or taken in the form of pills, according to medical advice. In more serious cases, it is necessary to go to an emergency room, as it may be necessary to use injectable drugs.

2. Dry skin

Dried skin, called cutaneous xerosis, is mainly caused by the excessive use of soaps, by taking very hot and long baths, or due to the aging of the skin, which becomes thinner and loses the ability to produce oil and retain natural hydration, which can cause constant itching, in addition to other symptoms such as irritation, peeling or even skin cracks.This type of itching is more common on the legs, arms or belly.

Other causes of skin dryness may include the use of certain medications, such as cholesterol-lowering drugs, opioids or diuretics, for example, in addition to situations such as dehydration, living in cold regions with low humidity, and even, certain diseases that can cause changes in skin keratinization.

What to do: avoid taking very hot baths, use humidifiers in the environment and use hypoallergenic soaps, in addition to moisturizing creams containing ceramides, glycolic acid, vitamin E or urea, for example. The ideal is to consult the dermatologist so that the best moisturizing cream according to the skin type is indicated.

In addition, in some cases, to relieve the itching immediately, the doctor may prescribe anti-allergy medication, such as loratadine or dexchlorpheniramine, for example. Check out the recipe for a great homemade moisturizer for extra dry skin.

3. Dermatitis

Dermatitis is an inflammatory skin disease, usually of genetic or autoimmune cause, in which there is a chronic allergic process, which causes constant and intense itching, and may be accompanied by other skin changes.

Some of the more common forms of dermatitis include:

  • Atopic dermatitis: most common in the folds of the arms and knees in children, and may also appear on the cheeks and next to the ears of babies, or on the neck, hands and feet of adults, and be accompanied by redness, scaling or swelling of the skin;
  • Seborrheic dermatitis: causes redness or peeling of the skin, especially on the scalp, and oily areas of the skin such as the sides of the nose, ears, beard, eyelids, and chest, causing itching, spots and peeling of the skin;
  • Contact dermatitis: causes intense itching accompanied by blisters and redness, swelling and scaling, in areas of the skin that have been in direct contact with an irritating substance, such as jewelry or cosmetic, for example;
  • Dermatitis herpetiformis: causes an inflammatory reaction that causes intense itching, accompanied by small blisters on the skin, similar to lesions caused by herpes, and can appear on the scalp, butt, elbows, knees and back, being more common in people with gluten intolerance or celiac disease;
  • Psoriasis: is a chronic skin disease that causes inflammation and intense multiplication of the cells of the most superficial layer of the skin, causing red and dry patches, which cause itching, sensation of burning or pain;
  • Moth dermatitis or Hylesia dermatitis: occurs due to the release of bristles by the Hylesia moth, which penetrate deeply into the skin and can remain for days to weeks, leading to development of symptoms such as intense itching of the skin and local redness. In this type of dermatitis, itching occurs mainly at night, as this moth has a nocturnal habit, with the release of its bristles during the flight, not requiring direct contact with the moth to result in symptoms.

Other rarer examples of skin changes that cause itching include luminal or bullous dermatitis, in addition to other dermatological diseases such as bullous pemphigoid, mycosis fungoides and lichen planus, for example. Check out more details about the main types of dermatitis.

What to do: a dermatologist should be consulted to evaluate the characteristics of the lesions and, thus, treatment is guided according to each type of dermatitis, which may include urea-based moisturizing creams, corticosteroid or anti-allergy drugs, for example.

4. Skin infections

Skin infections can be caused by fungi, bacteria or parasites, causing lesions and inflammatory reactions, and the appearance of itchy skin, which can occur in different parts of the body, according to the type of microorganism that caused the infection.

Some of the most common infections are:

  • Skin mycoses: causes itching, redness and peeling of the skin, and can affect any region of the body, which arises due to fungal infections, as in the case of ringworm, Onychomycosis, Intertrigo and Pityriasis Versicolor;
  • Ccutaneous candidiasis: caused by an infection with the Candida fungus, causing the appearance of itchy skin, reddish and moist lesions, more common in the folds of the body, such as under the breasts, groin, armpits, nails or between the fingers, although it can appear anywhere on the body;
  • Scabies: Also known as scabies, this disease is caused by the Sarcoptes scabiei mite, which causes intense itching and red bumps, and is quite contagious;
  • Herpes: herpes virus infection causes redness and small blisters, which can be itchy or painful, common on the lips and genital area;
  • Impetigo: skin infection caused by bacteria that causes small sores that contain pus and form crusts.

These infections can be transmitted from one person to another, and usually arise due to poor hygiene habits or when immunity drops.

What to do: Treatment should be guided by the doctor according to the type of microorganism that caused the infection, and the use of antifungal drugs such as nystatin or ketoconazole, antibiotics such as neomycin or gentamicin, permethrin or ivermectin solutions for scabies, and antivirals such as acyclovir for herpes. Itching can also be relieved with anti-allergy prescribed by a doctor.

5. Systemic diseases

There are several systemic diseases, which can affect various organs or the body as a whole, and cause itchy skin.

Some systemic diseases that can cause itching in the body are:

  • Viral infections such as Dengue, Zika or chicken pox;
  • Diseases of the liver or bile ducts, such as Hepatitis B and C, primary biliary cirrhosis, bile duct cancer, alcoholic cirrhosis and autoimmune hepatitis, for example;
  • Kidney diseases, such as chronic renal failure;
  • Neuropathies, caused by diabetes, stroke or multiple sclerosis, for example;
  • Endocrine disorders, such as hyperthyroidism, diabetes, or mastocytosis;
  • HIV, both due to skin infections and immune changes that may arise;
  • Hematologic diseases, such as anemia or polycythemia vera;
  • Cancer, such as skin lymphoma.

These diseases can cause itching with different frequency and intensity in each person.

What to do: In these cases, treatment should be prescribed by the doctor according to the main disease that may be causing the body itching. In some cases, the doctor may recommend the use of antiallergic medication, such as hydroxyzine, to relieve itching.

6. Psychological illnesses

Psychological itch, also called psychogenic pruritus, is diagnosed by the doctor when the cause of the itch cannot be found even after a detailed and lengthy medical investigation, with physical examinations and evaluations.

This type of itching can arise in cases of depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, drug addiction or personality disorders, for example. Sometimes the itching is so intense that it can damage the skin.

What to do: you must follow the treatment indicated by the doctor according to the cause of the itchy skin, after confirming that it is not a dermatological or systemic. In this way, the psychiatrist can indicate psychotherapy or treat the underlying disease, with the use of anxiolytics or antidepressants, for example.

7. COVID-19

Although rare, COVID-19 can cause red, or purple, hives-like lesions, which can also cause itchy skin in some people. These spots and itching can appear on different parts of the body, such as legs, arms and hands, and are usually caused by a reaction of the immune system to fight the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and can last between 5 and 14 days.

What to do: It is important to go through a consultation with a doctor, to evaluate the possible causes of injuries and indicate the most appropriate treatment, which may include the use of anti -histamines, immunosuppressants and corticosteroids, for the treatment of urticaria, or paracetamol, for cases of COVID-19, for example.

What causes itchiness in pregnancy

During pregnancy, hormonal changes, which are normal during pregnancy, can make the skin drier, which can cause itching.

Furthermore, there are some skin problems that may arise or worsen during this period, such as gestational itching, caused by changes in the bile ducts, or other dermatoses such as hives, papular dermatosis or pemphigoid gestationis, for example.

So, if the itching is persistent, it is recommended to consult with the obstetrician or dermatologist, to evaluate the possible causes and indicate the most appropriate treatment.

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