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Itching: Introduction

Itching is a symptom of a wide variety of mild to serious diseases, disorders and conditions. Itching, also called pruritus, can result from infection, inflammation, allergy, insect bites and other abnormal conditions. Itching can also occur during the normal healing process.

Itching can occur in any age group or population. Itching can indicate a mild condition, such as a fungal infection called ringworm or a skin rash called contact dermatitis. Itching can also be the result of a moderate condition, disorder or disease, such as an allergy, chicken pox, hives or a parasitic infection of the skin called scabies. Itching can also occur in some serious, even life-threatening conditions, such as in severe allergic reactions that include anaphylaxis and allergic purpura.

Depending on the cause, itching can be short-term and disappear quickly, such as when itching occurs due to a build-up of dead skin cells. Itching can also occur in sudden episodes, such as itching that happens when a person is exposed to an allergen that causes a rash. Itching can also occur over a relatively long period of time, such as when itching is due to chicken pox or chronic eczema.

Itching can be the result of a wide variety of other conditions. These include methamphetamine abuse, dandruff, dry skin, hayfever, stress, anxiety, and skin conditions, such as hives, pityriasis rosea and psoriasis. Itching can also be due to parasitic infections, such as public lice, head lice, and fungal infections, such as jock itch and a vaginal yeast infection. Liver diseases that cause jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and eyes, can also result in itching.

Itching can occur by itself or in conjunction with other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Other symptoms can include rash, runny nose, and sneezing. Complications of itching can occur from excessive scratching. The underlying disorder, disease or condition can also cause complications. For more details about symptoms and complications, see symptoms of itching.

Diagnosing itching and its root cause begin with taking a thorough personal and family medical history, including symptoms and exposure to common allergens, and completing a physical examination.

If an allergy is suspected to be the cause of itching, diagnostic testing may include skin patch testing. In a skin patch test, small amounts of common allergens are applied methodically to the skin to determine what substances are triggering an allergic response. A blood test called a radioallergosorbent test (RAST) may also be done to help identify the substances that are causing an allergy. For suspected food allergies, a patient may also be asked to keep a log to record the types of foods that trigger an allergic reaction that includes itching.

Making a diagnosis also includes performing a variety of other tests to help to determine potential underlying diseases, conditions or disorders, such as liver disease and jaundice. Tests may include blood liver function tests and imaging tests such as CT scan, nuclear scans, and MRI.

A diagnosis of itching and its cause can easily be delayed or missed because itching may be mild or intermittent and for other reasons. For information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of itching.

Treatment of itching involves diagnosing and treating the underlying disease, disorder or condition that is causing it. Some conditions can be easily and successfully treated and cured, while others may require more intensive treatment. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of itching. ...more »

Itching: Symptoms

Itching generally stimulates a strong desire to scratch the area that itches. Itching may occur alone without other symptoms. Symptoms that do accompany itching vary depending on the underlying cause.

Common symptoms that occur with allergy-related itching include rash, runny nose, sneezing, hives, rash and red eyes. Symptoms of food allergies that can cause ...more symptoms »

Itching: Treatments

Treatment plans for itching are individualized depending on the underlying cause, the presence of coexisting diseases, the age and medical history of the patient, and other factors. Treatment generally involves a multifaceted plan that addresses the cause, minimizes the discomfort of itching and the desire to scratch and decreases the risk of developing complications, such ...more treatments »

Itching: Misdiagnosis

Diagnosing itching and its cause may be delayed or missed because in some cases, itching may not be severe enough for a person to seek medical care. Itching is a symptom of many different conditions, so a thorough medical evaluation that may include skin patch testing is needed to ensure an accurate diagnosis of the reason for itching. ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Itching

Wrongly Diagnosed with Itching?

Causes of Itching

Read more about causes of Itching.

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Definitions of Itching:

An intense itching sensation. - (Source - Diseases Database)

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More information about Itching

  1. Itching: Introduction
  2. Symptoms
  3. Causes
  4. Treatments
  5. Alternative Treatments
  6. Misdiagnosis

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