What causes itching all over?

Many different diseases, disorders and conditions can lead to mild to severe itching. Itching all over can be a sign of dry skin or irritation from clothing or detergent. Itching all over can also be caused by a viral infection, scabies, or an allergic reaction to a medication. In some cases, itching all over can be due to a life-threatening allergic reaction associated with difficulty breathing called anaphylaxis. Itching all over can also be a sign of other serious diseases, including liver disease, leukemia and lymphoma.

Infectious causes of itching all over

Itching all over may be caused by infectious diseases, such as:

  • Bacterial infection of the skin

  • Chickenpox

  • Measles

  • Viral infection

Allergic causes of itching all over

Itching all over can be caused by an allergic reaction including:

  • Allergic contact dermatitis caused by an allergy to a soap or detergent

  • Drug reaction

  • Eczema (atopic dermatitis)

  • Food allergies

  • Irritant contact dermatitis caused by contact with an irritating substance

  • Scabies, an allergic reaction to mite bites

Autoimmune and inflammatory causes of itching all over

Itching all over can be caused by autoimmune and inflammatory disorders including:

  • Celiac disease

  • Psoriasis

  • Sjogren’s syndrome

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus

Parasite or insect bites causes of itching all over

Itching all over can be due to insects and parasites that bite the skin or burrow in the skin including:

  • Bedbugs

  • Body lice

  • Multiple mosquito bites

  • Scabies

Other causes of itching all over

Itching all over can also be caused by other conditions including:

  • Anxiety or stress

  • Dry air or dry climates resulting in dry skin

  • Hormonal changes

  • Iron deficiency anemia

  • Methamphetamine abuse and other drug abuse

  • Pregnancy

  • Stress

Life-threatening causes of itching all over

In some cases, itching all over may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition including:

  • Allergic reaction with anaphylaxis (tightening and closing of the airways)

  • Hodgkin’s lymphoma

  • Kidney failure

  • Leukemia

  • Liver disease and liver failure

What are the potential complications of itching all over?

In some cases, an itching all over can lead to complications, especially if there is severe itching and scratching that leads to breakdown of the skin. Scratching can introduce bacteria or fungus in the layers of skin, resulting in infections.  Complications include:

  • Bacterial or fungal infection of the skin

  • Cellulitis (an infection of the skin and surrounding tissues caused by a growing bacterial or fungal infection)

  • Open sores and lesions

  • Permanent change in skin texture, scarring

  • Permanent skin discoloration

  • Complications of underlying causes of itching all over can also occur. You can reduce the risk of complications of itching all over and its underlying causes by following the treatment plan you and your health care provider develop specifically for you.

References:

  1. Eczema. National Eczema Association. http://nationaleczema.org/.
  2. Allergic Diseases Resource Center. World Allergy Association. http://www.worldallergy.org/adrc/.
  3. Learn: About Psoriasis. National Psoriasis Foundation. http://www.psoriasis.org/NetCommunity/Page.aspx?pid=322.
  4. Skin rashes and other changes. FamilyDoctor.org.  http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/tools/symptom/545.html.
INTRODUCTION

What is itching all over?

Itching all over is an annoying sensation often caused by skin irritation or inflammation. Itching all over may be associated with a rash or other skin symptoms, or it may occur by itself.

... Read more about itching all overintroduction

SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with itching all over?

Itching all over may occur by itself or with other symptoms. Symptoms vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. For example, you may have flu-like symptoms if itching all over is caused by infection or inflammation. Anxiet... Read more about itching all oversymptoms

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 2, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.