Itch (cont.)

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How is the cause of itching diagnosed?

As with any condition, a careful medical history and physical examination will suggest to your doctor the particular diagnostic tests that may be needed to determine the cause of itching. Some common causes like dry skin or sunburn may be obvious, while causes such as chronic systemic diseases or conditions may require blood or imaging tests to identify. If a skin condition is responsible for the itch, sometimes a scraping or biopsy may be performed to identify the condition. Nevertheless, many common rashes and skin ailments have a characteristic appearance that may suggest the correct diagnosis.

Should I scratch the itch?

Itching usually prompts scratching, which can sometimes lead to a vicious itch-scratch cycle. Scratching can initially feel satisfying, but prolonged scratching just leaves you with irritated skin that can still itch and often worsens the itching itself. Since scratching provides only temporary relief and doesn't promote healing of the underlying problem, it is best to avoid scratching if at all possible. If scratching breaks open the skin, bacterial infection can set in. This is known as secondary infection. And if scratching continues for many months or years, the area that is scratched may develop thickened skin (lichenification) or pigmentation that darkens the area.

The best way to allow irritated skin to heal is to stop scratching it. However, will power often is not enough since the urge to scratch can be compelling. The following sections discuss some general measures and home remedies to help control itch, regardless of the cause.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/27/2013

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Itching - Treatments Question: What treatment did you receive for your itching?
Itching - Cause Question: What was the cause of your itching?
Itching - Associated Symptoms Question: In addition to itching, what other signs or symptoms did you experience?
Itching - Scratching Prevention Question: How do you keep from scratching an itch? Please share helpful tips and suggestions.

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