Itchy skin (pruritus)
Itching is an irritating, disturbing sensation in the skin that can make anyone go all scratchy. Itchy skin is also recognized as pruritus and it usually occurs due to dry skin. It’s prevalent in adults that are older, as skin becomes drier with age.
Depending on the condition behind the itchiness, the skin might look normal, rough, red, or bumpy. Excess scratching can make the skin become thick from different areas that can become infected or even bleed.
Itchy skin symptoms
Itchy skin, usually affects areas, like the scalp, a limb, or even the whole body. Pruritus can sometimes occur without exhibiting any noticeable modifications in the skin. The symptoms that appear can include:
- Bumps, pimples, or blisters
- Leathery or flaky patches
- Scratch marks
- Dry, damaged skin
Sometimes itchiness persists for longer (chronic pruritus) and proves intense. And the area you rub or scratch gets itchier, the more you scratch, the more it gets itchier. This itching-scratching cycle can become complicated to deal with.
Causes of itchy skin involve:
- Skin conditions: For example xerosis – dry skin, dermatitis – eczema, psoriasis, parasites, scabies, insect bites, burns, scars, and hives.
- Internal diseases: Itching sensation on the surface of the body can be a sign of an underlying illness, like kidney disease, liver disease, diabetes, multiple myeloma, anemia, thyroid problems, or lymphoma.
- Nerve disorders: These can include multiple sclerosis, shingles, and pinched nerves.
- Psychiatric conditions: Like anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
- Irritation and allergic reactions: These comprise wool, soaps, chemicals, and additional substances that can aggravate skin irritation and result in rashes and itching. The cosmetic materials can sometimes cause hypersensitivity. Also, responses to some drugs, including opioids can make the skin itchy.
Sometimes the root cause behind itching remains undiscovered. Pruritus which is severe or remains longer than six weeks – chronic pruritus – can impact your life in a negative way. It may interfere with your sleep or induce stress or depression. Continued scratching can raise the severity of the itch, perhaps giving rise to skin injury, scarring, and infection.
When should you see a doctor?
Consult a doctor, especially, a skin specialist, dermatologist, if you itching:
- Remains for longer than two weeks without showing any improvement through self-care measures.
- Is critical and keeps you from doing your daily tasks or disturbs your sleep
- Transforms your whole body
- brings up the other signs and symptoms, including weight loss, night sweats, or fever
So if the situation doesn’t change in three months even after the treatment, consult a dermatologist and get evaluated for skin disease. It might also be essential to visit a doctor who practices internal medicine to be assessed for different diseases.
Treatment for itchy skin concentrates on eliminating the cause of the irritation. In case home remedies do not relieve the itchy skin, your physician might prescribe medications to treat your itch. So managing itchy skin symptoms sometimes becomes challenging and people might need long-term treatment.
- Corticosteroids: If you feel your skin itchy and flushed, your physician might recommend a topical medication that needs to be applied to the affected areas. Covering the treated skin using a damp cotton cloth can prove helpful. Moisture promotes the skin absorption of the medication while producing a cooling effect.
- Additional creams and ointments: Other medicines that you can apply to the affected area include calcineurin inhibitors, like pimecrolimus (Elidel) and tacrolimus (Protopic). Or you might get some relief from topical anesthetics, doxepin, or capsaicin.
- Oral medications: These can include antidepressants such as fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), and doxepin, which may help reduce some kinds of chronic pruritus. You might not receive the desired results from some of these medicines for the next 8 to 12 weeks after you start taking them.
- Light therapy (phototherapy). Phototherapy includes skin exposure to a special type of light. Because this therapy can be an excellent option for somebody who isn’t able to take oral drugs. You’ll probably require multiple sessions of phototherapy till your itch becomes under control.
Treatment with Low Dose Naltrexone
Dermatology is confronting increasing incidences of autoimmune diseases appearing in primary skin disorders that are challenging to treat without immunosuppression. Naltrexone is an oral opioid antagonist that affects various systemic pathways, such as the immune system, and is used in very low doses of 1.5 – 4.0 mg every day.
The way it works has provoked the consideration of researchers and experts about low-dose naltrexone’s potentiality in treating many autoimmune diseases. At doses of 50 to 100 mg every day, naltrexone is given as an off-label dermatological treatment for trichotillomania and various kinds of pruritus. So the effectiveness of low and standard doses of naltrexone in many dermatological complications has been observed. Hence, these cover diseases like familial benign chronic pemphigus (Hailey-Hailey disease), systemic sclerosis, dermatomyositis, psoriasis, and lichen planopilaris. Hence, encouraging preliminary conclusions, inexpensive cost of therapy, and great tolerance make low-dose naltrexone an encouraging adjunct drug or alternative therapy in dermatology.
Low Dose Naltrexone
So this option is quite interesting. Some doctors are using a strong medicine – naltrexone, which is normally used to treat opioid addiction. So it is being prescribed as an off-label treatment and in extremely lower doses, for a host of inflammatory pain diseases like fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis.
How investigators suspect low-dose naltrexone (LDN) performs its action: In several chronic conditions involving pain and swelling, the glial cells of the nervous system get over-responsive and discharge cytokines in abundance, which result in inflammation and enhanced pain sensitivity. “We think that low-dose naltrexone slowly [gets] into the central nervous system and calms down the glial cells so they stop secreting so many cytokines, and over time, pain improves because the central nervous system isn’t so revved up and irritated,” says Jeter.
Two main reasons why low-dose naltrexone (LDN) attracts so much attention from physicians is that there are very few side effects, and the medicine does not lead to dependency. “It’s being studied for use in several conditions,” says Jeter. He prescribes low-dose naltrexone (LDN) to avoid giving an opioid for chronic pain.
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