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7 Possible Reasons for Itchy, Irritated Skin

With skin irritations, an occasional scratch or itch is rarely cause for concern. However, when an itch becomes intense or ongoing, the lasting discomfort and unpleasantness can begin to interrupt your quality of life and even inhibit your ability to function in your day-to-day routine. Itchiness is often from a variety of factors, both chronic and acute. Discover some common reasons for itchy, irritated skin.

1. Allergies

Increased sensitivity to substances generally considered benign or harmless for most people can trigger an abnormal reaction in your immune system. Allergic reactions are the result of an excessive defensive response to a material your body deems harmful or threatening, which may cause mild to severe itchiness as your body becomes inflamed or irritated by the allergen.

2. Bites and Stings

Mosquitoes, bed bugs, fleas, and other biting insects leave a small amount of saliva behind that can irritate the layers of your skin and cause itchy, swollen, or painful lesions. Your body reacts both by sending histamine, an inflammatory substance, to the site and by triggering the nerves around the area to kick in as a protective mechanism against the saliva, which your body registers as an intrusive substance.

3. Dryness

If your skin becomes dry and lacks moisture, it can start to become itchy and uncomfortable. In more severe cases, your skin may even begin to flake or become red due to dryness, which can make itching relatively painful or harmful to the thinner layers of your skin. Dryness can be from dehydration, hot showers, a lack of environmental humidity, and various medical conditions.

4. Infections

Both bacterial and fungal infections are common reasons for skin itching and irritation and may also be accompanied by a rash or lesions. While numerous types of skin infections are possible, some are more common culprits for itchy, irritated skin than others. Some skin infections include the following:
  • Fungal: Common especially in moister areas of the body, infections such as ringworm, thrush, athlete’s foot, and yeast infections, are from various fungi.
  • Parasitic: Microscopic parasites, such as lice and scabies, can infest the skin and cause itching through small bites, burrowing, and movements across the skin.
  • Viral: If you contract a viral infection such as shingles, measles, or chickenpox, you may also develop an itchy rash or small, itchy lesions or bumps.
  • Bacterial: Anywhere the skin is irritated may prompt an urge to scratch at the area even in cases of bacterial infections that would not otherwise cause itching. Potentially itchy bacterial skin infections include boils, cellulitis, and impetigo.

5. Dermatitis

Typically contracted through contact with a skin irritant, dermatitis is characterized by itchy, red, and inflamed skin. The condition is most often mild and temporary, but some instances of dermatitis may require medical attention and treatment if the symptoms persist.

6. Chronic Skin Conditions

Itchy skin that won’t seem to go away could be due to a chronic skin condition that causes ongoing discomfort and irritation. These conditions are generally treatable through lifestyle changes and topical treatments, but different conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis, manifest differently and require different treatment approaches. If you notice dry, scaly patches of skin or have persistent itching, a visit to your dermatologist is in order for proper diagnosis.

7. Underlying Disease

In rarer cases, persistent itching, especially widespread, may be a symptom of an internal illness or disease. Conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, anemia, thyroid disease, or liver problems can prompt a reaction in the body that may make some areas itchier than others. However, these conditions are less commonly responsible for itchiness, and most cases of itchy skin are from milder sources. For help with itchy skin diagnosis and treatment, contact East Carolina Dermatology and Skin Surgery, PLLC, to make an appointment with one of our experienced dermatologists.

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