Itch – to have or produce an unpleasant feeling on your skin or inside your mouth, nose, etc. that makes you want to scratch
Chronic itch, also known as pruritus, can be extremely uncomfortable and affects people’s lives in many ways. Poor sleep, problems concentrating, lowered sex drives and depression can all be attributed to the debilitating effects of chronic itch. Treating chronic itch can be very problematic, and in many cases involves trying a variety of methods, searching for the right treatment option to provide some level of relief to the suffering patient.
Itching is an intense, distracting irritation or tickling sensation that may be felt all over the skin’s surface, or confined to just one area.
There are Four Major types of Itch
- an itch that originates from the skin
- chemically-induced itch
- itch related to damaged nerve fibres or internal diseases such as chronic renal failure or liver disease
- itch based on psychiatric reasons
What Causes Itchy Skin?
- An allergic to contact with specific chemicals, such as urushiol, derived from poison ivy or poison oak.
- Body lice.
- Head lice, if limited to the neck and scalp.
- Insect bites such as those from mosquitos.
- Photodermatitis when sunlight reacts with chemicals in the skin, leading to the formation of irritant metabolites.
- Pubic lice if limited to the genital area.
- Shaving, which may irritate the skin
- Swimmers itch.
- Chickenpox, prevalent among young children and highly contagious
- Jock itch
Who gets it?
Anyone can get pruritus but certain groups of people are more susceptible to the condition, including:
- People with seasonal allergies, hay fever, asthma, and eczema
- People with diabetes
- People with HIV/AIDS and various types of cancer
- Pregnant women
- The elderly
Is it contagious?
Scratching an itch is contagious. Watching another person scratch an itch can cause you to do the same, and scientists have figured out the basis of this peculiar “itch contagion.” It’s all in your brain.
Merely seeing someone else scratch activates brain centres involved in the itch response, suggesting the observation makes one itchy.
But this response doesn’t apply to everyone. Those study participants who were more neurotic (a tendency toward negative emotions) were more likely to experience itch contagion. Surprisingly, the researchers found empathy (a willingness to take another’s viewpoint) did not correlate with the phenomenon. “It is conceivable that the neuronal networks or mechanisms underlying contagious itching may be similar to the ones involved in contagious yawning, a phenomenon that is still intensely studied, but not exactly clear,”
Scratching an itch is contagious
Signs and Symptoms:
Itchy skin may occur in small areas, such as on an arm or leg. Or your whole body may feel itchy. Itchy skin can occur without any other noticeable changes on the skin. Or it may be associated with:
- Bumps, spots or blisters
- Dry, cracked skin
- Leathery or scaly texture to the skin
Sometimes itchiness lasts a long time and can be intense. As you rub or scratch the area, it gets itchier. And the more it itches, the more you scratch. Breaking this itch-scratch cycle can be challenging.
Complications of Itchy Skin
Prolonged itching and scratching may increase the intensity of the itch, possibly leading to neurodermatitis (lichen simplex chronicus).
Neurodermatitis is a condition in which an area of skin that’s frequently scratched becomes thick and leathery. The patches can be raw, red or darker than the rest of your skin. Persistent scratching can also lead to a bacterial skin infection and permanent scars or changes in skin colour.