Itchy skin or pruritus is an uncomfortable and irritating sensation that makes you want to scratch your skin. Itchy skin can be worsened by xerosis or dry skin. As we age, skin tends to become drier and hold lesser moisture. Thus, itchy skin is more commonly observed in older adults.
There are various causes to itchy skin. According to the cause, your skin could appear normal, red and swollen, rough or bumpy. Due to constant scratching, the affected area could thicken and skin may bleed or get infected.
Deciding the cause of your itch can take time and a number of examinations. The doctor might also ask you questions about your medical history and medications. They can even suggest blood tests, thyroid, liver and kidney function tests and chest x-rays if they suspect that your itchy skin is a result of a medical condition.
The treatment of itchy skin focuses on finding the underlying cause of the itch.
Medical treatment includes:
- Corticosteroid creams and ointments: If your skin is itchy and red, the doctor might suggest applying a corticosteroid cream or ointment to the affected areas. After applying the cream, you must cover the area with a damp cotton cloth. The damp cotton cloth helps in holding moisture to absorb the medicine and cool the area.
- Topical anesthetics: Itchy skin can become itchier at nights to the extent that the person suffering could lose sleep. Topical anaesthetics help numb the affected area so that the person can relax for a while.
- Oral medications: If your doctor feels that your skin issue is advanced or cannot be cured using topical medications only, he may suggest oral medicines most doctors suggest antidepressants that reactivate inhibitors.
- Light therapy (phototherapy): Phototherapy means using a specific type of light on your affected skin. Multiple sessions of phototherapy are required before the itching is under control.
Also Read: Aging and Dry Skin: All You Need to Know
Home remedies and lifestyle changes:
While itching skin can be cured gradually by medication, there are some lifestyle changes you can adopt and some home remedies you can follow to temporarily decrease the itchiness.
- Avoid items that trigger your itch: Try identifying what situations or items trigger your itch. It may be certain textures (rough curtains or bed sheets), harsh chemicals (washing powders and soaps), allergic foodstuffs, or dry weather. Try avoiding these items and situations. In case of dry weather, you can use humidifiers.
- Moisturize regularly: Apply a light and hypoallergenic moisturizer. It should be fragrance-free. For best results, apply to skin right after taking bath, when the skin is still damp. This helps trap moisture in skin for a longer time. Apply moisturizer at least once a day, though it is advisable to use moisturizers 2-3 times a day.
- Avoid scratching: though the first instinct is to scratch itchy skin, try to resist it. Scratching itchy skin could cause injury and give an opening for unwanted germs to enter and create more complications. Cover the affected area if you cannot control scratching. Trim your nails regularly and wear gloves at night.
- Use creams and lotions that soothe the skin: Such creams, lotions and gels provide temporary relief from the itching by moisturizing and cooling your skin. They are available OTC without any prescription. Calamine lotions are the best options.
- Use lukewarm water: If you have chronic pruritus, the symptoms could be alleviated by using lukewarm water for baths. Sprinkle Epsom salts, baking soda or uncooked oats in the bathwater. This can stop itching for some hours. Some people also prefer cold water baths. Do not use harsh soaps. Use a mild, fragrance-free cleanser and do not scrub too hard. Pat dry and apply moisturizer immediately.
- Reduce stress: Stress increases itching. Follow methods to reduce stress like acupuncture, meditation, counseling and yoga.
- Use OTC allergy medicine: Some over-the-counter drugs and medication can help you sleepy. They will be helpful to make you sleep at night. However, it is advisable to use these drugs only after consulting with a doctor. If you are already taking some medication for other ailments, there may be unfavourable drug interactions.
- Wear light clothes: Light fabrics like cotton and linen keep your skin cool by promoting air circulation. This may reduce the feeling of itching. However, it may also dry out your skin quickly. Wear dresses that fully cover your affected area.
Also Read: 12 Ways Men Can Keep their Skin Healthy
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