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Your Skin, Pruritus, and Itching

Pruritus simply means itching. It can be associated with a number of disorders, including dry skin, skin disease, pregnancy, and rarely, cancer.

 

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Who Gets Pruritus?

Anyone can get pruritus but certain groups of people are more susceptible to the condition, including:

  • People with seasonal allergies, hay fever, asthma, and eczema
  • People with diabetes
  • People with HIV/AIDS and various types of cancer
  • Pregnant women
  • The elderly

How Is Pruritus Treated?

Finding the cause of the itching and treating any underlying skin disease is the first step in solving pruritus. 

If a drug reaction is suspected, switching to a different medication may be helpful to reduce the itching. However, most drug reactions have a rash along with itching. 

The best way to prevent pruritus is to take care of your skin. To protect skin:

  • Use skin creams and lotions that moisturize your skin and prevent dryness.
  • Use sunscreens regularly to prevent sunburns and skin damage.
  • Use mild bath soap that won't irritate your skin.
  • Take a bath or shower in warm -- not hot -- water.
  • Avoid certain fabrics, such as wool and synthetics, that can make skin itch. Switch to cotton clothing and bed sheets.
  • Since warm, dry air can make skin dry, keep the thermostat in your house down and use a humidifier.
  • To relieve itching, place a cool washcloth or some ice over the area that itches, rather than scratching. 

Your doctor may also prescribe medication to treat pruritus, including antihistamines and topical steroids. Rarely, steroid pills and antibiotics may also be needed.

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Norman Levine, MD on July 12, 2012
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