Skin Itching & Scratching can drive us up a wall. Everyone is itchy from time-to-time. However, for some of us, itchy skin can be much more severe—to the point of invading all aspects of our lives. Numerous factors can make us develop an itchy rash. Dry skin, poison ivy, skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis (skin cell build-up), a bug crawling on the skin, malfunctioning nerves (neuropathy), and other internal diseases (liver disease/kidney failure). Insect bites, allergic reactions (food allergies) and so many other agents may also trigger this itchy feeling.
Skin Itching & Scratching
Scratching is the physical act of us using a sharp object like our fingernails to scrape at the areas that are itchy to alleviate our symptoms. Unfortunately, scratching is a double-edged sword because scratching makes itch nerves fire more, heightening our discomfort. This is known as the “itch-scratch cycle.” If this cycle goes on long enough, it can become its own disease state known as neurodermatitis.
The best dermatologists spend a considerable amount of their day working with patients who are suffering from the itch, some of whom have developed skin diseases such as neurodermatitis, atopic dermatitis or contact dermatitis.
At Advanced Dermatology of the Midlands, our role as dermatology providers is to reduce the itch as much as possible. Our role includes trying to determine and treat the exact cause or causes for a patient’s itching. We also make it clear that the path to improvement involves considerable effort on both sides. We want patients to know that if they continue to scratch, scratching can become habitual feeding into the vicious cycle of itching & scratching lasting for days, months, or even years.
Here are some of our most common shortcuts to take the fire out of itch:
- Anti-itch lotions including CeraVe Itch Relief and Sarna (unscented version) often help. These contain the active ingredient pramoxine, which soothes nerve endings that are involved in the itch sensation.
- A dab of Calamine Lotion, Caladryl, Mentholatum, or Vick’s Vapor Rub to especially itchy areas can give added relief.
- Moisturize thoroughly and often. Dry skin is one of the most common causes of itch, especially in individuals 60 or older. Ideally use moisturizer twice daily to all of your skin from the neck down to your toes. CeraVe, Vanicream, Eucerin, and Aquaphor are the most common moisturizers we recommend.
- Keep your fingernails trimmed close. This way you can do less damage to your skin if you do scratch, especially if this occurs overnight when you are asleep.
- Try other relief alternatives. We have found that some patients will get relief from using their hands to put pressure on an itchy area or applying an ice pack for 5 minutes every half-hour or so. Scratching and rubbing may make itch more intense, but these alternatives do not.
- For an added boost, keep your medication and/or moisturizer refrigerated for more of a cooling and soothing relief when applying.
- Experiment with different clothing. Lighter, looser fit clothing may help. Cotton or silk fabrics may also be gentler on the skin. Avoid wool or other fabrics that have a rough texture. Consider the same ideas when it comes to your bed linens to help with your itch.
Advanced Dermatology of the Midlands | Best Dermatologist Omaha & Council Bluffs, IA | Board Certified Dermatologists
We hope you find this basic guide to itch useful and that it brings you relief from your suffering. The intense itch can seem relentless. If your itch is pronounced or lasting, or if you need more assistance, please consider seeing us in a consultation. Before trying any home remedies for itchy skin, we suggest you speak with one of our board-certified dermatologists. All our dermatology providers have vast experience in helping patients identify the causes for their itching and navigate through the problem, finding their way back to normal feeling skin.