Itchy skin

Itchy skin

Consultant-led dermatology care to ease itching and keep your skin healthy and clear

Skin itching is uncomfortable and frustrating, but prolonged itching is more than an irritation. Chronic scratching can cause scarring, injury and infection. It can also cause skin thickening, which can increase the intensity of the itchiness. If your skin is disturbing your sleep and affecting your wellbeing, the dermatology specialists at London Medical can help.

London Medical offers a consultant-led Dermatology Clinic, dedicated to providing expert skin treatment in a professional, comfortable and caring environment. The clinic offers a comprehensive diagnosis and treatment service and provides all relevant blood, skin and allergy testing. If itchy skin is affecting your health and quality of life, the experts at London Medical can identify the cause of the itching and soothe your skin.

What is pruritis?

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Pruritis is the medical term for skin itching. It’s an uncomfortable sensation that makes you want to scratch the skin to relieve the itch. Itching can have many underlying causes including chronic medical conditions, psychological problems, neurological disorders and pregnancy. A number of different skin conditions including eczema and psoriasis also frequently lead to itching.

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Generalised itching without rash is most commonly caused by dry skin. Dry skin develops when there is less natural oil in the skin’s outermost layer, the skin’s natural barrier function is affected and water can be lost from the skin cells. It’s more common as we get older, however heat, chemicals in skin products and low humidity can all trigger dry skin and itching. Occasionally, there might be an underlying systemic reason for itching which might require further blood tests.The problem is, scratching damages the skin’s protective barrier making it irritated, inflamed and even more itchy. The dermatology experts at London Medical can help break this frustrating vicious cycle.

What does pruritis look like?

Depending on the cause of the itching, the skin may appear normal or it may look rough, scaly, red and bumpy. Repeated scratching can cause scratch marks, scarring and thickened leathery patches of skin.

When to see a doctor for itchy skin

The specialists at London Medical can help find the underlying cause of the itching and soothe the pruritis. It is particularly important to get specialist medical advice if:

  • Itching is disturbing your sleep and affecting your daily life.
  • The itching has been present for more than 2 weeks or keeps recurring.
  • There is a new rash or lump that is itchy.
  • The itching is all over your body.
  • You are feeling weak, unwell or have other symptoms. Rarely, itchy skin can be a sign of thyroid, liver or kidney disease.
  • You are pregnant. Itching is common in pregnancy but severe itching can be caused by an uncommon condition called ICP, which needs specialist care

Treatment of itchy skin at London Medical

The consultant dermatologists at London Medical will take a careful medical history, thoroughly assess your skin, and consider the effect the symptoms are having on your life.

Depending on the findings, the specialists may arrange for investigations including blood tests, scans in the clinic’s state-of-the-art imaging suite, and allergy and patch testing to identify any triggers. They will then tailor a comprehensive skincare programme to break the frustrating itch-scratch cycle.

The treatment will depend on the cause of your itching, but could include:

Treatment of skin disorders: Eczema, psoriasis, fungal infections, scabies, hives, and prickly heat can all cause itching. The dermatology consultants at London Medical have extensive experience in the diagnosis and treatment of all common skin conditions.

Emollients: Emollients are topical treatments that moisturise the skin and reduce water loss from the surface. Regular use of emollients can relieve the tightness and discomfort of dry skin, smooth the surface and ease any itching.

Anti-itch creams: Creams such as doxepin can be prescribed to ease itching, over-the-counter anti-itch preparations can also help some people.

Topical steroid preparations: Steroid creams or ointments can reduce redness, inflammation and itching. They can also treat inflamed, thickened skin. The specialists at London Medical have extensive experience in the safe use of topical steroid preparations, they will prescribe the product with the right potency for your skin. The frequency

of application and length of usage will depend on your skin, the steroid you are using and the part of the body affected. Your consultant will take time to answer all your questions and concerns and the specialist staff at the clinic will also offer expert support and guidance

Antihistamine medication: Antihistamines can reduce itching for some people with pruritis.

Antidepressant tablets: Certain antidepressant medications can reduce nighttime distress caused by itching and help improve sleep.

Phototherapy: London Medical offers specialist ultraviolet light treatment to reduce pruritus.

Self-help advice: The dermatologists will support you to make lifestyle changes that can help reduce itching. Tepid bathing, choosing soft, smooth clothing, avoiding soaps and scented skin preparations and staying away from direct heat sources can all make a difference. The clinic will provide you with individual advice to help you look after your skin and break the scratching habit.

Frequently Asked Questions

You’re stuck in the itch-scratch cycle and, as you’ve found, it can be a difficult habit to break. There are a few things you can try:

  • Try patting instead of scratching the skin.
  • Lay a cool, damp flannel on the area, it can help calm the irritation.
  • Apply emollient instead of scratching.
  • Cut your nails short to reduce the risk of skin damage.

If the skin is becoming thickened and inflamed, or you’re struggling to stop scratching, make an appointment with the dermatologists at London Medical for expert assessment and advice.

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