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.

Itching skin can indicate mild to severe conditions and can also occur in some serious, even life-threatening conditions, such as severe allergic reactions that include anaphylaxis and allergic purpura. Itching can result from infection, inflammation, allergy or sensitivity, insect bites, and other abnormal conditions.

Depending on the cause, itchy skin can be short-term and disappear quickly, such as when itching occurs due to a buildup of dead skin cells. For example, if you feel itchy all over and live in a dry climate, you may have “winter itch,” which is caused by the lack of moisture in your skin.

Itching can also occur in sudden episodes, such as itching that happens when a person is exposed to an allergen that causes a rash. Itching can also occur over a relatively long period of time, such as when itching is due to chronic eczema.

Itching can occur by itself or in conjunction with other symptoms, including rash, runny nose, and sneezing. In addition, excessive scratching can introduce bacteria or fungus into the layers of the skin, resulting in infections. Tell your health care provider about any symptoms that occur with itchy skin. This information may help your health care provider diagnose the condition.

Itching skin accompanied by difficulty breathing and swelling of the tongue or face may be due to an allergic reaction and anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening emergency that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have any of these symptoms. Seek prompt medical care if you do not have symptoms of anaphylaxis, but the itching is persistent or causes you concern.

SYMPTOMS

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

CAUSES

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:

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.

Your Guide to Shingles