Learn About Ailments | Itching


Itching is a problem that can be limited to one area of the body or be generalised across the whole body or several areas. Itching can occur from psychological and physical conditions. Common causes of itching include stress and anxiety, infections and infestations, sunburn, cancer, allergies or disorders of the endocrine and metabolic systems (e.g. liver, kidney disease).

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Did you know? Causes of itching
Symptoms of itching Diagnosis of itching
Related Terms

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Itching, or prutitus, is a common symptom which can affect the entire body (generalised itching) or one specific area (localised itching). There are many causes of itching such skin conditions, allergies, insect bites, infections, diseases or hormonal changes.

Common skin conditions that cause itching include:

  • Eczema
  • Dermatitis
  • Psoriasis
  • Sunburn
  • Hives
  • Dry skin

Common allergies that result in itching include:

  • Food allergies
  • Drug allergies
  • Allergies to certain fabrics
  • Cosmetic allergies
  • Chemical allergies

Insect and parasite bites can also cause itching. The common pests that trigger itchy skin include: head lice, pubic lice and the scabies mite. Bites or stings can also cause skin inflammation.

Infections such as chickenpox have associated itching symptoms as do fungal infections e.g. athlete's foot and ringworm. A yeast infection such as thrush causes genital itching.

Itching can also be a symptom of a disease such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Kidney failure
  • Liver failure
  • Leukaemia
  • Anaemia
  • Cirrhosis
  • Hepatitis
  • Hodgkin's disease

Hormonal changes during pregnancy can result in itching typically during the first three months (first trimester). Women going through the menopause may also experience itching.

An itch can be irritating and the problem may be mild or severe. In mild cases there is usually no impact on a person's physical or mental wellbeing but severe itching can have a big impact on your life.

Scratching too hard can lead to painful and broken skin with some bleeding. A persistent itch can also causes psychological stress and anxiety if treatment is unsuccessful. Itching during the night can lead to sleep deprivation.

In the majority of cases an itch is temporary and will usually disappear within a day or so. If itching is persistent, recurring, severe or accompanied by other physical problems then you should visit your GP to determine the underlying cause.


The GP will examine the area of the body you are scratching for visual clues. If itching is generalised then further tests may be required. A blood test will determine if diseases such as thyroid or kidney disease are causing the problem. A skin scrape or biopsy may be required for analysis and if vaginal infection is suspected then a vaginal swab may be needed.

Itch, Itches
Scratch, scratching
Allergic Reaction

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