Itching or ‘’Pruritus’’ is a reaction of the skin that leads to an involuntary sensation of scratching on the affected area. It can be a sign of any underlying systemic disorders such as diabetes, liver disease, multiple myeloma, skin conditions such as dry skin, eczema, psoriasis, nerve disorders like herpes zoster, multiple sclerosis, psychiatric disorders like anxiety and depression and irritation as well as allergic reactions.
Itching worsens at night, commonly known as nocturnal pruritus. Natural causes responsible for this include an increase in skin temperature, increased release of cytokines meanwhile a decrease in corticosteroids secretion and increased water loss at night. Some health conditions that include skin diseases like eczema, psoriasis etc., anemia, leukemia, lymphoma, liver diseases, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, pregnancy etc. are also responsible.
Foods that cause skin allergies are a common factor responsible for itching. Some of them include tomatoes, citrus fruits, nickel containing foods, spices, peanuts, eggs, wheat, cow’s milk, shellfish etc. , consumption of which leads to the appearance of mild symptoms like rashes and scratching in the particular skin area followed by the worsening of dermatitis in that area.
Besides a number of factors responsible for itching, stress serves as a host inviting the same. Anxiety has a proven link as it affects our nervous system, leading to the development of sensory symptoms such as itching, burning sensations etc. It also causes redness and raised-up rashes on the skin as a result of a nervous state of mind.
Itching is a symptom of an underlying disease or disorder we have all experienced at some point in life. It can be very difficult to describe itching to others if you are experiencing it. The sensation of itching may vary from person to person, it usually leads to a very uncomfortable feeling in the skin. It can also feel as if something is crawling on the skin. Itching can either occur all over your body or can be restricted to just one area. Symptoms of itching is generally associated with cracked skin, dry skin, rash, flaky skin, flaky scalp, skin redness, bumps on the skin, blisters or skin spots. Itching can be caused due to a variety of underlying conditions such as contact dermatitis, fungal infections, chicken pox, skin cancer, hives, insect bites, kidney diseases and liver diseases. Viral rashes, sexually transmitted diseases, haemorrhoids, dermatitis herpetiformis and clothing eczema can also be some causes of itching.
Sometimes, itching caused due to dry skin, sun exposure, atopic dermatitis and infestations can be cured easily by consuming or apply certain medicines. A lot of anti-itch creams are available in the market that contain benzocaine, diphenhydramine (Benadryl), pramoxine (Tronolane, Caladryl), phenol, menthol and camphor. If you are experiencing itching, it is vital to avoid scratching your skin as much as possible, doing this can lead to the disruption of the skin and result to bacterial infection.
A lot of people try to self treat themselves by purchasing over the counter medicines for itching. Sometimes these medicines work, but if they fail to work and the itching is associated with skin lesions, then it is important to consult a dermatologist. Many times, psychological factors can also trigger itching such as anxiety and stress. Itching which is caused by reactions to certain medication or drugs can be healed by restricting the use of these medicines. People also tend to use home remedies to get rid of itching such as application of cool water on the affected area, taking cold showers, using ice packs on the skin, etc.
Usually doctors prescribe antihistamines to prevent and treat itching. This includes Chlor-trimeton (chlorpheniramine), Atarax (hydroxyzine) and Benadryl (diphenhydramine). This medicine induces drowsiness in people so by falling asleep after few doses will help the patients stop scratching their bodies, thus reducing the symptoms of itching. However some antihistamines are available which is called second generation antihistamines, they don’t make you feel sleepy because the sedative effect is less in these medicines. However, second generation antihistamines are not as effective as the above mentioned antihistamines. Usually the doctor prescribes these drugs and should be consumed only as advised by the doctor.
Antihistamines can be used by people suffering from acute and uncontrollable itching. Consuming antihistamines is also beneficial if you have symptoms of cough and cold. Since antihistamines contain anti-allergy symptoms, people who are allergic to dust mites, pet dander, ragweed and pollen can consume this medicine.
If you are on other medications, then antihistamines can interact with these medications and prove fatal, hence it is important to consult a doctor before buying them. If you have glaucoma, liver disease, kidney disease, thyroid problems, heart diseases, high blood pressure and enlarged prostate, consuming antihistamines can be harmful for your body. Nursing and pregnant women should also avoid this medicine.
The major side effect of antihistamines is drowsiness but it can also lead to other side effects. This includes, dry mouth, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, moodiness, restlessness, difficulty in urination, blurred vision and confusion. Antihistamines should not be consumed in excess or it can be fatal for health. To get rid of drowsiness due to consuming antihistamines, you can take it before bedtime so that it will not create a hurdle in your daily activities.
After getting treated with antihistamines, it is important to follow preventive measures so that itching doesn’t reoccur anytime soon. Using sunscreen lotion before stepping out of the house will make your skin recover from the lesion and bumps caused due to scratching. This will also prevent your skin from getting sensitive which would promote itching otherwise. Since itching is an underlying cause of some condition, preventive measures should be taken if you have some disease or medical conditions which trigger itching. You should promote hygiene and care to prevent lice, bug bites and sexually transmitted diseases. If you experience itching even after taking antihistamines, it can be an underlying cause of a serious disease, in such cases, it is mandatory to consult a physician right away.
After consuming antihistamines, itching can reduce in a few days. Applying topical ointments can also make itching disappear for the time being. Though, itching cannot be cured completely by the use of antihistamines, preventive measures can be taken to reduce the susceptibility of itching in the future.
The price of the treatment can be anywhere between Rs. 300 to Rs. 13,000.
Results of the treatment last as long as you are consuming the antihistamines. After stopping the use of this medicine you can again be prone to developing itching in the long run. Therefore this treatment isn’t permanent in true sense.
Other than antihistamines, there are other alternative treatments for itching. These include, supplements or creams containing camphor, menthol and phenol. Anesthetics or creams containing hydrocortisone are also regarded as itch reducers. Topical ointments can also be used if necessary.skin rash
Foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help fight the itching by helping in the lipid formation beneath the skin, responsible for its moisture retention. Hence, they save the skin from dryness, the ultimate cause of itching. Those foods include oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring, avocados, coconut oil, nuts and seeds.