What causes itching skin?

Many different diseases, disorders and conditions can lead to itching skin. Itching can be a sign of inflammation, infection, or insect bites. More serious causes include an allergic reaction that may be associated with difficulty breathing.

Infectious causes of itching skin

Itching skin may arise from infectious diseases, such as:

  • Bacterial infection of the skin

  • Chickenpox

  • Fungal infection of the skin, such as ringworm

  • Measles

  • Shingles

  • Viral infection

Parasites, insects and arachnids that can cause itching skin

Itching skin can be due to numerous insects, parasites or arachnids that bite the skin or burrow in the skin including:

  • Bedbugs

  • Fleas

  • Lice

  • Mosquitoes

  • Ticks

Allergic causes of itching skin

Drug, animal, food, and other environmental allergens can lead to itching skin including:

  • Allergic contact dermatitis, such as an allergy to latex

  • Animal allergy

  • Eczema

  • Food allergies

  • Irritant contact dermatitis, such as from poison ivy

  • Medication allergy, such as from penicillin

  • Scabies (allergic reaction to mite bites)

Autoimmune or inflammatory causes of itching skin

Autoimmune and inflammatory causes of itching skin include:

Other causes of itching skin

Various other causes of itching skin include:

  • Iron-deficiency anemia

  • Pregnancy

  • Varicose veins

Life-threatening causes of itching skin

In some cases, itching skin may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be evaluated as soon as possible or in an emergency setting. These include:

What are the potential complications of itching skin?

Complications of itching skin depend on the underlying disease, disorder and condition. Identifying and treating the underlying cause of itching skin is important to minimize any potential complications. In some cases, itching skin itself can also lead to complications, especially if the itch-scratch cycle is severe and leads to a breakdown of the skin.

Potential complications of itching skin

Over time, itching skin can lead to various complications:

  • Bacterial or fungal infection of the skin and surrounding tissues

  • Permanent change in skin texture (neurodermatitis)

  • Permanent skin discoloration

  • Scarring


  1. Allergic Diseases Resource Center. World Allergy Association. http://www.worldallergy.org/adrc/.
  2. Skin rashes and other changes. FamilyDoctor.org. http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/tools/symptom/545.html.

What is itching skin?

Itching skin is an inflammatory reaction of the skin. Itching is a symptom of a wide variety of mild to serious diseases, disorders and conditions. Itching is also called pruritus. Itching or itchy skin may or may not be associated with a rash. Itching skin can affect a small area of the skin or the full body, and it differs in severity, frequency and duration, depending on the underlying cause... Read more about itching skinintroduction


What other symptoms might occur with itching skin?

Itching skin may occur with other symptoms, depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Body systems that are seemingly unrelated to the skin can also be affected. For example, you may have flu-like symptoms if the itching is due to infection or inflammation.

Skin symptoms that ma... Read more about itching skinsymptoms

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.

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