Chronic Itching

Causes and Treatment of Chronic Itching

When bothered by the pain and irritation of chronic itching, you are likely anxious to discover the cause.  Many things can bring about itchy conditions – both external and internal factors that affect the state of your skin.  Learn how to pin point your cause and also how to begin proper treatment.

Chronic itching is defined as an irritation or itch that lasts between one and two weeks.  If it flares up and dissipates it is more accurately called a recurring itch, but can become chronic if not treated.

External factors that cause a chronic itch can include allergies, weather conditions and dryness or lack of humidity in the air.  Internal factors also include allergies (from ingestion) as well as infection and conditions such as psoriasis. 

The location of the itching can help to narrow down the possible causes.  If a rash occurs in a limited or contained area, the cause is more likely to be an irritant or allergy that made contact with that particular area.  A soap or type of clothing could be rubbing over an area repeatedly and irritating the skin causing itch.  The difference between allergic rash and irritant contact rash is generally the time frame of flare up.  If a rash appears instantly, it is often considered irritant contact.  If the reaction takes a few days, it is better classified as allergic.  The best way to treat this type of itch is to remove the irritant or allergen, properly clean the area and wait for the body to cease the reaction.

A localized rash may also be the result of a skin condition called lichen simplex chronicus.  This happens when an area is repeatedly scratched, causing the skin to thicken and possibly even discolor.  Treatment of the initial itch is the only way to halt or reduce the thickening.

If the itch is within a fold of skin or similar area, a fungal infection or intertrigo could be the cause.  Pay attention to the type of rash, when or how it developed and any other surrounding symptoms such as odor or discoloring.  Often these conditions are more severe when heat and moisture.  Intertrigo may be treated with a zinc oxide cream similar to diaper cream.

Other cause of chronic itching can be both localized and widespread on the skin.  These include eczema (or atopic dermatitis), psoriasis or simple dry skin (xerosis).  Pay attention to the triggers of such rashes to help you find out the root cause.  Eczema has no known cure, but the condition does worsen as the itching continues, so reducing the urge to itch is important.  Some children with eczema have their rashes cleared up with hydrocortisone or mild steroids.  Dry skin can be treated with cream – look for a brand that works for you and watch out for ones that cause further irritation.

Psoriasis may be genetic with no cure, but it can also be caused by stressful situations or be a side effect of medication.  Discuss the condition with your doctor to see what can be done about it.  At least 2 to 3% of Americans deal with psoriasis for their entire life.

Chronic itching may also be caused by scabies, which are actually tiny mite bites in your skin.  Your body reacts strongly with an itchy rash when the pregnant mite lays her eggs.  The rash may be much larger than the actual infestation area, but the condition will not get better without specified treatment.  Work through an extensive cleaning of your body and your surroundings, as the mites cannot live off of you for more than two to three days.  See your doctor if the itchiness in the folds of your skin is severe and if other people in your home suffer from the same rash.

Chronic itching can be caused by any number of things from dry skin to allergies or bugs.  Work through where, when and how the rash or itchiness developed.  See your doctor or dermatologist if necessary and begin to treat the rash.  Your mind and skin will be soothed when the solution is found.