Itching can become a medical condition if it is too intense. It can be dangerous and may need serious attention from the patient. This condition is known as pruritus. It may be localized to a certain part of the body or it can spread to the entire body. The latter condition is referred to as generalized pruritus.
If the condition develops along with a rash, it is much easier to diagnose as it becomes easily treatable. But without the appearance of rash, pruritus can be very hard to diagnose, as the root cause is not easily decipherable. In the absence of a rash, pruritusis diagnosed through a blood count, kidney function, liver function, iron level, stool sample for parasite presence, and chest X-ray with a search of lymphoma.
In the development of pruritis, itching leads to a severe desire to scratch and the scratching leads to more itching. This constant scratching creates rashes and redness and in severe cases it may lead to inflammation as well. The cycle is called “itch and scratch cycle.” Pruritus is lot more likely to be a symptom than the root cause of the disease. It is usually a symptom of another disease which has yet to materialize.
When pruritus is localized, chances are the root cause is skin related and not a disease. The body part where itching is severe can point to the root of the problem though. The following are the main areas that are susceptible to this condition along with the root causes:
Scalp: Scalp itching can be caused by psoriasis, head lice, dandruff and contact dermatitis.
Eyelids: Itchy eyelids can be caused by contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis and allergic conjunctivitis.
Nose: Nasal itching is commonly caused by allergic rhinitis.
Ears: Itching in ears is caused by allergic rhinitis, contact dermatitis and swimmer’s ears.
Back/Chest/Abdomen: Itching in these areas is caused by folliculitis, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, scabies infection and contact dermatitis.
Upper Limbs: Itching in upper limbs is caused by atopic dermatitis; xerosis, also called dry skin; and brachioradial pruritis. Itching in upper arms, shoulder blades and neck can point to sun exposure and nerve damage in upper spine.
Lower Limbs: Itching in lower limbs is caused by many diseases that cause itching in upper limbs. Itching behind knees is commonly caused by atopic dermatitis. Rashes on knees as well as elbows are caused by psoriasis and dermatitis herpetiformis.
Outer limbs: Itching in hands and feet is frequently caused by contact dermatitis; atopic dermatitis; and pompholox, which is a form of eczema, ringworm and scabies.
Under arms : Itching in these areas is called by contact dermatitis, scabies, tinea and yeast infections.
The cause of generalized pruritis is partially due to a systemic disease. However, root causes vary from situation to situation. Condition is caused by certain medication, parasitic infection of intestine, other infections, high or low thyroid function, kidney diseases, liver diseases, and cancers such as lymphoma and chronic urticaria. Systemic forms of contact dermatitis and dermatographism are common causes of generalized pruritus.
Medical drugs that induce itchy scalp and skin are opiates such as vicodin, morphine and codeine, along with plaquenil, aspirin and NSAIDs. Medications that have an effect on the kidney are also likely to cause pruritus.
Pruritus – or more commonly itchy scalp and skin – is a clear indicator that your body and your skin needs your immediate attention. Focusing on root cause is the key, while keeping an eye on external factors can save you much nuisance.