Itching has various causes. Sometimes the cause can be identified immediately and can be easily removed, but sometimes itching is caused by an underlying disease that we do not know can also cause itching. Itching of the skin can be accompanied by flaking or red skin, but this does not always have to be the case. About the causes and consequences of itching.
What is itching?
Itching is often compared to pain. Itching is a feeling caused by irritation of the skin. The nerves send a signal to the brain so that we scratch to remove the stimulation from the skin. Itching often also has a useful function. Itching makes us feel that there is something on the skin that we have difficulty wiping away, such as an insect. Itching is usually temporary but can also last for a very long time due to an underlying cause. Sometimes itching is so severe that the skin is scratched and damaged, causing even more itching and pain.
Cause of itching
Itching is an irritation that is delivered to the brain via the nerves. As a result, we scratch or rub. It has long been thought that itching is the same as a painful stimulus, but this is not the case. Pain and itching stimuli take a different route through the nerve pathways. The body also reacts differently to these two. Below is a list of various causes. For more information, go to the relevant link by clicking on the underlined text.
- Insect bite: this is especially common in the summer months.
- Tickling of the skin: feathers, hair, dust, insect legs.
- Dry skin, eczema, psoriasis cause itching in most cases.
- Hives: itchy red to pale patches of fluid retention, caused by an allergy or in response to infection, food, cold, or an underlying illness.
- Pregnancy: many pregnant women get itching, especially in the abdomen.
- Psychological complaints.
- Too high a level of red blood cells: itching, headache and a reddened face.
- Anemia: too low a level of hemoglobin in the blood.
- Allergic reaction to food or medicine.
- Hay fever.
- Worms in the intestinal tract: itching of the anus.
- Hemorrhoids: itching around the anus, sometimes also pain.
- Jaundice: sometimes the cause lies in the liver, but also in the bile ducts or due to incorrect nutrition. Causes itching and a yellow complexion, especially the whites of the eyes look yellow.
- Poor kidney function: sometimes causes itching. This often results in anemia.
- Sweat: especially itching under the armpit or on the hands.
- Itching on the head.
- Fungal infection: itching between the toes due to athlete’s foot.
- Healing: itching often occurs during wound healing.
The most common insect bite that causes itching is the mosquito bite. Horseflies and fleas can also cause severe itching. Mosquitoes insert their saliva into the human skin in an anesthetic manner, so that a mosquito bite is not felt. Only when the mosquito is gone does the itching start. This itching is caused by foreign proteins in the mosquito’s saliva, to which the body reacts. Without treatment, the itching disappears after a maximum of five days. With special ointment or cream the itching sometimes goes away faster.
Skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis
Dry skin or extremely dry skin such as eczema causes skin flaking, redness and itching. Itching in particular is seen in almost all cases of eczema. Eczema can occur at any age, even in very young babies. There is often itching of the hands, wrists, backs of knees or elbows. Heredity plays a role, eczema can be an allergic reaction to a certain substance, but sometimes the cause is unknown. Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease in which cells in the epidermis divide too quickly while they are not sufficiently matured. In many cases itching occurs.
Pregnancy causes itching
Many pregnant women experience itching during pregnancy. This mainly occurs in the abdomen, but also in the legs or breasts. On the one hand, this is due to stronger blood flow during pregnancy. This can cause incorrect stimulation, causing itching. The enlargement of the abdomen also causes itching because the skin is stretched and irritated. These complaints disappear automatically after delivery.
Shingles/zona or herpes zoster
Shingles causes itching and pain to the skin. The pain in particular can sometimes be intense and persist long after the blisters have disappeared. Small water blisters develop that closely resemble chickenpox. The skin under these blisters is red. The cause is a virus that also causes chickenpox. Anyone who has had chickenpox has a risk of developing shingles due to reduced resistance. Shingles can be treated with medication, but before the blisters have formed.
Hay fever and itchy eyes
Itchy and red eyes are often caused by hay fever, an allergic reaction to grasses/pollen. This mainly occurs in the spring and summer months. Other symptoms include nasal discharge, sneezing, watery eyes and sometimes difficulty breathing. Medicines can suppress the symptoms. Other causes for itchy eyes include allergic reactions to pet hair or dander, dust or mold. In addition, itchy eyes are sometimes caused by an eye disease, often accompanied by dry eyes.
The scalp itches in many people. Often a sign of excessive sebum production. Anyone who scratches their head will find a greasy substance under their fingernails, coming from the scalp. Washing the hair causes correct and extra production of sebum, resulting in even more itching and greasy hair. Other causes of itching on the head are head lice, dandruff, eczema or mountain, tension and stress.
Treatment of itching
Itching can be treated by keeping the skin moisturized with cream. But itching caused by an underlying condition or disease can only be relieved when the cause is addressed. The doctor can prescribe targeted medications or treatment. During wound healing, itching is annoying, but it is a sign that the new skin is being irritated. Try not to scratch the wound.
- Hemorrhoids: itching and treatment
- Swimmer’s foot or swimming pool eczema
- Infection by mites
- Allergic to water
- Eczema and its treatment