Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
Infections, bites and stings, infestations, chronic diseases, sun exposure, and dry skin are among the numerous causes of itching.
Anti-itch creams and lotions containing camphor, menthol, phenol, pramoxine (Caladryl, Tronolane), diphenhydramine (Benadryl), or benzocaine can bring relief.
Some cases of itching will respond to corticosteroid medications.
It is best to avoid scratching when possible to avoid worsening of the condition and disruption of the skin that could lead to bacterial infection.
If itching persists with time or worsens, or is associated with skin lesions, consulting a health-care professional is advisable.
What is an itch?
Itch is an irritation in the skin that elicits an urge to scratch. Itches are a problem that everyone experiences and can be localized (limited to one area of the body) or generalized (occurring all over the body or in several different areas). Sometimes, itching may be worse at night. In medical terminology, itching is known as pruritus.
Generalized itch is often more difficult to treat than localized itch. Itches
can also occur with or without skin lesions (bumps, blisters, rash, or
abnormalities that can be seen on the skin). An itch that is accompanied by a
visible skin abnormality should be evaluated by a physician and, in some cases, by a dermatologist since the problem is likely to be a condition that requires specialized medical treatment (for example, eczema, scabies, etc.).
What are associated symptoms and signs of itching?
Depending upon the underlying cause, itching may be associated with other symptoms and signs. Most commonly, these associated findings include skin lesions such as rash, blisters, bumps, or redness of the affected area. Dryness of the skin is a common cause of itch. Itching of skin can lead to tears in the skin (excoriations) from scratching. Less commonly, generalized itching can be a sign of chronic medical conditions such as liver disease. In these situations, there may be no changes to the appearance of the skin.
Q: Before my wedding, before job interviews, and anytime I have a bit of stress, my arms, wrists, and hands break out in an itchy rash. Can stress cause a rash? How do I prevent this from occurring, and how do I treat it?
A: Stress is one of the known triggers of hives, an outbreak of raised, red spots (or welts) on the skin that often itch.