Pruritus simply means itching. There can be reasons behind itching, including dry skin, skin disease, pregnancy, and rarely, cancer.
Itch is an irritation in the skin that causes an individual to scratch. These are a problem that everyone experiences and can be localized, i.e. limited to one area of the body or generalized affecting almost every part of the body. Depending upon the underlying cause, itching may be worse at night sometimes.
Generalized itch is often more difficult to cure than localized itch. Pruritus may also occur with or without skin lesions like bumps, rash, blisters, or abnormalities that can be seen on the skin making it difficult to diagnose the underlined cause. An itch that is accompanied by a visible skin defect should be examined by a physician. In some cases, such itches should be evaluated by a dermatologist because the problem is likely to be a condition requiring specialized medical treatment, for instance, eczema, scabies, etc.
Who Gets Pruritus?
Anyone can get pruritus but certain groups of people are more vulnerable to the condition, which includes:
- People with seasonal allergies, asthma, hay fever, and eczema
- People with diabetes
- People with HIV/AIDS and various types of cancer
- Pregnant women
- The elderly
No matter what the condition is, careful medical history and physical examination help your doctor the find the particular diagnostic tests, which may be required to determine the cause of itching. While some common causes such as dry skin or sunburn may be obvious, other causes such as chronic systemic diseases may require blood or imaging tests to diagnose. If a skin disease is the cause of itch like scabies, usually scraping or biopsy may be performed to identify the condition.
Finding the actual cause of itching and treating any underlying disease is the foremost step in treating pruritus. In case of a drug reaction suspicion, switching to a different medication may be helpful to ease itching. However, the best way to prevent pruritus is to take proper care of your skin.
In order to protect skin:
- Keep your skin clean and moisturized preventing it to become dry. Use skin creams and lotions to achieve the same.
- Do not step out in the sun without applying sunscreens all over. Apply them regularly to prevent sunburns and skin damage.
- Use mild bath soap that won't irritate your skin.
- Take a bath or shower in warm water and not hot. This makes your skin dry.
- Avoid fabrics, such as wool and synthetics that can make skin itch. Cotton clothing and bed sheets are the best.
- keep your thermostat in house down and use a humidifier as warm, dry air can make skin dry.
- Do not scratch your itch. Rather, place a cool washcloth or some ice over the area that itches.
- Your doctor may also suggest medication to treat pruritus, including antihistamines and topical steroids. Sometimes, steroid pills and antibiotics may also be required.