What is chronic itch?

Itch that lasts longer than six weeks is defined as chronic itch. It can be a symptom of skin diseases such as atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, and scabies, and certain medications can also cause it. Those affected by chronic itch can experience significant quality of life issues, such as disruption during the daytime and difficulty sleeping at night.

The best way to treat chronic itching depends on the underlying cause, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach. A combination of treatments may be necessary in some cases, including topical medications, oral medications, light therapy, and distraction techniques.

If you are experiencing chronic itch, it is important to see a dermatologist or other medical professional to determine the cause and develop an appropriate treatment plan.


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Itchy skin (pruritus)

Pruritus is the medical term for a skin sensation that produces the urge to scratch. If you have itchy skin, you're not alone. It's a common symptom that often occurs without an obvious cause. It may also be caused by allergies or eczema in some cases. In other cases, itchy skin may be due to a more general condition, such as stress or anxiety.

Itchy skin can be treated in a variety of ways. Over-the-counter (OTC) creams and ointments can help to soothe and protect the skin from inflammation and rashes. For more severe cases, prescription medications may be necessary. If your itchiness is due to an underlying medical condition, treating the condition will often help to relieve the itchiness.

If you're struggling with itchy skin, talk to your doctor. They can help to determine the cause of your itchiness and recommend the best treatment options for you.


What is an itch, exactly?

The itch sensation usually starts in the nerve endings in the skin. These are called pruriceptors. When they are stimulated, they send a message through the nerve fibers to the brain. This message is then relayed to other parts of the body, which then activate the muscles that produce the urge to scratch. In some cases, an itchy sensation can be caused by a problem with the sensory neurons themselves. This is called neuropathic pruritus. There is no known cause for this condition at this time. Treatment for pruritus depends on its cause. If it is caused by dry skin, it can often be relieved by using a moisturizer. An underlying condition will dictate the treatment, which will revolve around that condition. In some cases, antihistamines or other medications may be used to provide relief from itching.



Symptoms and causes of pruritus

Many diseases and conditions can cause itchy skin, including:

-Itching due to dry skin

Itching caused by dry skin can be a frustrating and uncomfortable experience. The good news is that there are a number of ways you can reduce the itching and restore healthy skin.

First, make sure you are hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. By doing this, you'll be able to keep your skin moisturized from the inside out.

Next, apply a moisturizer to your skin regularly, especially after showering or bathing when your skin is most susceptible to drying out. Hydrating moisturizers should contain ingredients like hyaluronic acid and glycerin. 

Finally, avoid scratching your skin when it is itchy. Infection could occur as a result of this further irritating the skin. If you must scratch, do so gently with a soft material like a cotton ball.


-Insect bite or sting

An insect bite or sting can cause a lot of irritation and sometimes even pain. In some cases, an allergic reaction may occur. Insect bites or stings should be cleaned with soap and water and treated with a cold compress to reduce swelling. You should also see a doctor if you have a severe reaction or if the bite or sting is on your face or near your eyes.


-Itching due to eczema

Eczema is a common skin condition that can cause the skin to become itchy, dry, and cracked. As a result, blisters and scabs can form. Eczema is most often seen in people with dry skin, but it can also occur in people with oily or normal skin. Genetics and environment may play a role in the development of eczema, though the actual cause is unknown. Moisturizing creams, lotions, and ointments are typically used to treat eczema.


-Itch due to psoriasis

Itching can be a symptom of psoriasis, a chronic skin condition. It occurs when the skin cells grow too quickly, resulting in thick, scaly patches. The itching associated with psoriasis can be mild to severe, and it may be worse when the skin is dry or cracked. Treatment for psoriasis often includes moisturizers and medicated creams or ointments. In severe cases, oral or injected medications may be necessary.


-Itch due to hives or urticaria

Hives, also known as urticaria, are itchy, raised bumps or welts on the skin that are usually a sign of an allergic reaction. A number of factors can cause hives, including infections, certain foods, and medications. In most cases, hives go away on their own within a few days. However, if the hives are severe or last longer than a week, you should see your doctor.


-Itching due to liver disease

Itching is a common symptom of liver disease. It can be caused by a build-up of toxins in the body, or by inflammation of the liver. Liver disease medications can also cause itching as a side effect. If you have itching, it is important to see your doctor to find out the cause and get appropriate treatment.


-Itching due to kidney disease

Symptoms of kidney disease may include itching. Waste and fluids may not be properly removed from your body if you have kidney disease. This can cause buildup of toxins in your blood, which can make your skin itch. Kidney disease can also cause dryness and inflammation of the skin, which can also lead to itching. If you are experiencing itching, talk to your doctor to see if it could be a symptom of kidney disease.


-Itching due to thyroid disease

An essential gland in the body, the thyroid produces hormones that regulate metabolism. Patients with thyroid disease may experience itching due to the buildup of hormones in their body. When the gland is not functioning properly, hormone levels can become imbalanced, leading to a variety of symptoms, including itching. Itching can be a sign of hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid, which is when the gland produces too much hormone. It can also be a sign of hypothyroidism, or an under-active thyroid, which is when the gland does not produce enough hormone. In either case, it is important to see a doctor so that the underlying condition can be treated.


-Itching due to poison ivy

If you come into contact with poison ivy, you may experience itching as a reaction. When the plant comes into contact with the skin, a substance called urushiol can cause an allergic reaction. The itchiness is caused by the body's inflammatory response to the allergen. Blisters, swelling, and redness may also be experienced if you have a severe reaction. If poison ivy is suspected to have been present, the affected area should be cleaned with soap and water as soon as possible. You can also try applying a cool compress or taking an antihistamine medicine to help relieve the itching.


How To Treat Itchy Skin

Scratching your skin can cause it to become irritated and even infected. That’s why it’s important to find a treatment that works for you and stick with it.

A variety of treatments are available for chronic itch, including over-the-counter medications, prescription medications, and home remedies. Moisturizers are essential to keeping your skin healthy. Taking steroid therapy or other types of medication may also help relieve the itch and prevent further irritation.



When you have chronic itch, Dermeleve® is one of the best ways to relieve it. This anti-itch cream provides relief in as little as five minutes, and lasts up to five hours. Not only is Dermeleve® fast acting and long lasting, but due to the fact that it doesn't contain steroids, there are no harmful side effects from extended use.

If your itchiness persists despite treatment, it’s important to see a dermatologist to rule out other possible causes. Chronic itch can be a symptom of thyroid or kidney disease, lymphoma, or other conditions. In rare cases, it may also be caused by scabies or another type of parasitic infection.

Chronic itch can be treated in many different ways, but finding the right one may take some trial and error. If your itchiness persists despite treatment, don’t hesitate to see a dermatologist for more help.

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