The Skin-ny on Pruritus
Pruritus. While it might sound like a strange disease, you might be surprised to find it’s actually quite common.
Simply put, pruritus is the medical term for “itchy skin,” which can be a symptom of many different things – from other medical conditions like psoriasis and eczema, to environmental conditions like allergies, bug bites, and drug reactions. Irritation from contact with fabrics, cosmetics, or other substances also can lead to itching.
Itchy skin is one of the most frequent symptoms in dermatology. Chances are, if you’ve ever felt scaly from dry skin, you’ve experienced pruritus. You might also know that being itchy can be extremely uncomfortable and have an impact on your everyday life. Poor sleep and problems concentrating are just two things that people suffering from a bad itch have experienced. For some people, having a chronic form of itch has even led to symptoms of depression.
So – what can be done to help pruritus? While it can be tempting and might make you feel temporarily relieved, scratching can actually damage the skin and increase your skin’s inflammation, so doctors do not recommend it as a solution. However, there are several treatment options available (both over-the-counter and by prescription) that can help ease the discomfort associated with itch. Generally speaking, if the itch lasts more than two weeks and self-treatment has not worked, it may be time to speak with your doctor or dermatologist.
References: Mayo Clinic, Annals of Dermatology/Chronic Pruritus: Clinics and Treatments, Cleveland Clinic, International Forum for the Study of Itch; JAMA Dermatology/ The Impact of Pruritus on Quality of Life