Itch (Itching or Pruritus)

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    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.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    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.

Quick GuideRosacea, Acne, Shingles: Common Adult Skin Diseases

Rosacea, Acne, Shingles: Common Adult Skin Diseases

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, depending upon the underlying cause, itching may be worse at night. In medical terminology, itching is known as pruritus.

Generalized itch that occurs all over the body is often more difficult to treat than localized itch. Itches can also occur with or without skin lesions (bumps, blisters, rash, redness, 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.). Continue Reading

Reviewed on 4/20/2016
References
REFERENCES:

Butler, David F. "Pruritus and Systemic Disease." Medscape.com. Aug. 21, 2014. <http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1098029-overview>.

Mann, Julianne. "Brachioradial Pruritus." Medscape.com. May 15, 2014. <http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1355312-overview>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Cercarial Dermatitis." Jan. 10, 2012.<http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/swimmersitch/faqs.html>.

United States. National Cancer Institute. "Pruritus." Feb. 5, 2014. <http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/supportivecare/pruritus/Patient/page1>.

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