Pruritus means itching. It can be caused by a number of disorders, including dry skin, skin disease, pregnancy, and rarely, cancer.
Other causes of pruritus include infection, tumours, or a fungus. In addition, various medications can cause pruritus.
Who gets pruritus?
Anyone can get pruritus but certain groups of people are more susceptible to the condition, including:
- People with seasonal allergies, hayfever, asthma and eczema
- People with diabetes
- People with HIV/AIDS and various types of cancer
- Pregnant women
- Elderly people
How is pruritus treated?
Finding the cause of the itching and treating any underlying skin disease is the first step.
If a reaction to a medicine is suspected, switching to a different medication may be helpful to reduce the itching.
The best way to prevent pruritus is to take care of your skin. This includes protecting your skin from excessive damage. Methods for protecting your skin include the following:
- Use skin creams and lotions that moisturise your skin and prevent dryness.
- Use sunscreens regularly to prevent sunburn and skin damage.
- Use mild bath soap and laundry detergent that won't irritate your skin.
- Take a bath in warm, not hot, water to relieve itching and avoid making your skin too dry.
- Avoid certain fabrics, such as wool and synthetics that can make your skin itch. Switch to cotton clothing and bed sheets.
- Since warm, dry air can make your skin dry, keep the thermostat in your house or flat down.
- To relieve itching, place a cool flannel 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.
Sooting dry, itchy skin
Is dry, itchy skin driving you mad? Soft, smooth skin requires a delicate balance of water and body oils. Thirsty skin can become dry, flaky, itchy and may even crack - like dirt on the ground does during a drought.
Quench your dry skin properly, however, and you could prevent the urge to itch. Here are some simple ways to prevent and treat dry, itchy skin.
Moisturise, moisturise, moisturise
If you have dry skin, you should cover yourself with moisturiser on a daily basis. It is particularly important to do so immediately after you shower, bathe or wash your hands, while your skin is still damp. However, don't be too quick to grab the first bottle you see. Not all moisturisers are the same. Here's some advice about choosing the best one for dry, itchy skin:
Opt for a moisturiser that is thick, heavy and gooey. Skin care experts say ointments (called emollients) are best. They help seal the skin and prevent water loss. However, their greasy feel may put off some people. Creams are the next best solution. Lotions should be your last resort. These products are mainly water-based, and the water quickly evaporates when applied to the skin. They do less to help lock moisture into your skin.