Why Is My Skin So Itchy? – Part 1
Itching is a natural instinct that most people have. But why do we scratch ourselves? The possible causes of itchy skin, also known as pruritis, are varied and wide. Common conditions include; discomfort, anxiety, stress, boredom, and more.
Regardless of what’s causing the itchiness, itching is a condition that usually occurs because there is an irritation on the skin.
Primary and secondary responses
There are two main types of itches. One type is called a primary response and the other is called a secondary response.
Primary responses occur because your body senses something harmful on the surface of your skin, such as sand or dirt.
Secondary reactions occur due to inflammation and other physical conditions affecting your nerves.
Regardless of their differences, each type causes itching that makes you want to scratch.
You can treat both kinds of itches in different ways, but the immediate goal remains the same. Alleviate the itch- the sensation that makes you want to scratch.
Once you help relieve those areas of skin, you can stop scratching; which is the first step to solving almost all root causes of itchy skin.
The next step would be to determine the causes and treatments of any underlying illness that is resulting in the extremely itchy skin without relief.
Stop the itch, so you can stop the scratch.
As counter-intuitive as it might seem (and feel), a scratch is an itch’s worst enemy. It may feel satisfying in the moment to scratch an itch, but all you’re really doing is causing skin damage.
Scratching itchy skin has many unintended consequences. It can cause skin tearing, inflammation, and even lead to infections. In some cases, it can also cause a welt – a raised, red area of skin that is often more itchy than the original itch.
So what should you do if you’re dealing with an itch? Depending on the cause, there are a few different options for skin care.
If your itch is caused by dry skin, you might need to moisturize more frequently.
If it’s caused by an allergy or irritation to common substances, you might need to avoid whatever is causing the problem.
If it’s caused by an infection, you’ll need to see a doctor for treatment.
In any case, resist the urge to scratch – your skin will thank you for it!
Itchy skin is a common skin condition with a multitude of causes. We’ll dive into them a bit later in this two-part article.
Regardless of the cause of your itchy skin, there are two paths to take to bring relief: home remedies, or diagnosis and treatment from a doctor.
Itchy skin can be frustrating, especially when nothing seems to relieve the itch. If you’re looking for some relief, here are a few home remedies that may help:
- A cool compress can help soothe itchy skin. Just wet a clean cloth with cool water and apply it to the affected area.
- If you have a tub, you can take an oatmeal bath. This can help relieve itchiness and dryness. Just be sure to avoid hot water, as it can make the itching worse. This goes for the shower, as well.
- If dryness isn’t an issue, you can take a bath of Epsom salts to relieve generalized itching.
- There are also a number of topical creams and lotions that can help relieve itchiness.
However, not all skincare products are created equal.
Dermeleve® is one of the best anti-itch creams on the market. It has been formulated to work almost instantly and lasts a very long time. You’ll start to feel relief in five minutes; relief that lasts for five HOURS!
Not only is Dermeleve® excellent at treating the causes of itching, it’s also steroid free. It’s important to avoid using products that contain corticosteroids like hydrocortisone and other steroids, as over time they can cause harmful skin changes such as thinning and stretch marks. These, in turn, can lead to more serious conditions such as bacterial infections.
Not only do corticosteroids take several days to begin working, they are not suitable for long term relief. Dermeleve® is safe for long term use.
Treatment from a medical health professional
In terms of treatment for secondary itches you should consider a check with your doctor or clinic to discuss the problem. It’s possible some of the reasons for the itch could include common skin conditions diagnosis. Atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, hives or a rash are all common conditions that can be treated and relieved with medication prescribed by a dermatologist.
The choice to contact a doctor may result in the discovery or underlying causes that, in certain conditions, could be indicative of a larger problem that needs immediate attention. Potential causes of the symptoms may include signs of a more serious underlying problem, such as certain types of skin cancer. The good news is that many of these ailments can be treated effectively if caught early and diagnosed.
The Science Of Itch
In this article, we will discuss some of the science behind the conditions which cause us to become itchy. But if you want to understand what causes itchy skin, then you need to know how your skin works as a whole.
So let’s get under your skin and learn a little bit about our biggest organ, the epidermis.
About human skin
The skin is one of the most important parts of our bodies. We use it for protection against bacteria, insects bites, scratches from poisonous plants, and other things.
The outermost layer of our skin is called the epidermis. This is where most of the cells that make up our skin are located. The second layer of our skin is the dermis. This is where the blood vessels and nerves that help regulate the flow of fluids in the body are found.
So, when you have a red rash or itchy skin, this is because something is wrong with either the top layers of your skin, or the middle layer.
The two main reasons that people get rashes and itching is due to allergies and infections.
And yet, we still spend a lot of time scratching and picking at ourselves. Why?
Because it feels good. It doesn’t take a dermatologist to let us know that scratching an itch offers some immediate, if not temporary, relief.
But how does itching happen in the first place?
What Is An Itch?
An itch is a generalized sensation caused by the irritability of nerve cells or skin cells connected to the epidermis.
Also known as pruritus, an itch, like other skin sensations including touch, pain, vibration, cold, and heat, is a sensory and self-protective mechanism that can be bothersome. If not addressed, it can become intolerable.
But it’s also not without its usefulness. It can be used as the body’s way to warn us of dangerous external agents.
Pruritus is a common symptom of many illnesses that affect the skin, as well as other illnesses that affect the entire body. A sensation of itching arises when mechanical, heat, or chemical mediators stimulate pruriceptors, the skin’s itching nerve endings.
Pruritus is a condition characterized by stimulation of the pruriceptors on certain nerve cells known as C-fibers.
C-fibers, which make up around 80% of all fibers in cutaneuous nerves, are identical to those linked to the experience of pain but are functionally separate and exclusively transmit the itch sensation.
These C-fibers transmit information along the nerve to the spinal cord and then to the brain, from which it is processed to trigger a scratching or rubbing reaction when the skin is irritated.
Scratching and rubbing block pruritic sensations by activating several pain and touch receptors in the same regions.
However, even though it helps to relieve the itch, scratching only provides short-term relief and may irritate and even tear the skin, which could lead to an infection.
Despite decades of research on pruritus, there isn’t a single preferred antipruritic medication to provide relief. It can be treated with antihistamines, topical lotions and UV light therapy.
Thanks for the ‘how’, now let’s get to the ‘why’
This process of an itch can be triggered by a number of different factors.
For example, if you get an animal bite or cut, then the blood flowing to the area will cause you to feel discomfort and irritation that can be interpreted as itchy as well as painful.
In addition, certain diseases and infections can trigger itching as well.
Why Does Our Skin Itch?
As we’ve discussed, our skin is very important for us. Our skin protects us from the elements, and it helps keep our body temperature balanced.
When you have a negative reaction to something, then the immune system sends white blood cells to fight off the foreign substance. When this happens, the chemicals produced by these white blood cells cause redness, swelling, and sometimes even blisters.
This is why you might notice that you have a rash after being exposed to something that you have an allergic reaction to, such as certain chemicals, medication side effects, or plants like poison oak.
While rashes are commonly associated with these situations, if you are allergic to something, you will most likely start to itch before you see a sign of any other symptoms.
This can give you an opportunity to get ahead of the worst of an allergic reaction by eliminating contact with the allergen or plant before a rash, or worse, starts. This often involves washing the itchy area with soap and water and perhaps a change of clothes.
In this first part of our two-part article on all things skin itchy, we’ve looked at the definition of itch, what causes it, and some tips on how to deal with an itch.
Please continue reading on in Part 2 of our article, where we’ll discuss specific itch triggers – what the different types are, their causes and their treatments – so you can get some relief!