Itching

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Itching is a symptom we have all experienced. Nevertheless, itching can be difficult to describe to others. While itching symptoms vary, it typically leads to a peculiarly uncomfortable skin sensation. It may feel as if something is crawling on (or in) your skin. Itching can be diffuse (generalized all over the body) or localized -- all over or confined to a specific spot -- and there are many causes of diffuse and localized itching. Itching symptoms can be associated with

Itching may be most noticeable at night, during the day, or both. When there are itching symptoms, there can be a leathery or scaly texture to the skin depending on the cause.

Itching can be caused by toxins on the skin (contact dermatitis, such as from poison ivy or grass oils), medications, liver disease, kidney disease, insect bites, scabies, parasites (bedbugs, pinworms and others), hives (urticarial), rare forms of skin cancer (mycosis fungoides and T cell lymphomas), infections (including  chickenpox and fungal infections such as athlete's foot and jock itch), irritation from clothing, eczema, dermatitis herpetiformis, hemorrhoids, and many other conditions, or it can remain unexplained.

Perhaps the best definition of itching is by the response it evokes -- it is a feeling that makes you want to scratch. Medically, itching is known as pruritus. Something that is itchy is said to be pruritic.

Summary of Common Itching Symptoms by MedicineNet Staff
A review of our Patient Comments indicated that people with itching may also have coexisting symptoms. One patient reported a sensation of something crawling on her skin, while another mentioned a feeling of something moving in his blood. Sometimes cramping and blistering accompany the itching. A couple of patients noted that taking certain medications caused itching while other medications calmed their itching. Read on to learn more about itching symptoms in our Patient Comments.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/13/2015

Health concern on your mind? Visit the Symptom Checker.

REFERENCE:

Longo, D.L., et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 18th ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2011.

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      Pubic Lice (Crabs) Article
      • What are pubic lice?
      • What do pubic lice look like?
      • Where are pubic lice found?
      • What are the signs and symptoms of pubic lice?
      • How did I get pubic lice?
      • How is a pubic lice infestation diagnosed?
      • How are pubic lice treated?
    • Rabies Rabies is a viral disease that is transmitted via the bite of an infected animal. Symptoms include fever, headaches, and...learn more »
      In This Article
      Rabies Article
      • Rabies facts
      • What is rabies?
      • What causes rabies?
      • What are risk factors for rabies?
      • What are rabies symptoms and signs?
      • How do physicians diagnose rabies?
      • What is the treatment for rabies?
      • What is the prognosis of rabies?
      • Is it possible to prevent rabies? Is there a rabies vaccine?
    • Rash The word "rash" means an outbreak of red bumps on the body. The way people use this term, "a rash" can refer to many different...learn more »
      In This Article
      Rash Article
      • Rash facts
      • What are the causes, symptoms, and signs of common noninfectious rashes?
      • How are common skin rashes diagnosed?
      • Scaly patches of skin produced by fungal, viral, or bacterial infection
      • What is the treatment for a rash?
    • Retinal Detachment Retinal detachment is the separation of the retina from its attachments to the underlying eye tissue. Symptoms of retinal...learn more »
      In This Article
      Retinal Detachment Article
      • Retinal detachment facts
      • What is the retina?
      • What is a retinal detachment?
      • What are retinal detachment symptoms and signs?
      • What are retinal detachment causes and risk factors?
      • Which diseases of the eyes predispose to the development of a retinal detachment?
      • How does cataract surgery lead to a retinal detachment?
      • What other factors are associated with a retinal detachment?
      • Why is it mandatory to treat a retinal detachment?
      • What is the treatment for retinal detachment?
      • What are complications of surgery for a retinal detachment, and what is recovery like after retinal detachment surgery?
      • What are the results of surgery for a retinal detachment?
    • Ringworm The term "ringworm" or "ringworms" refers to fungal infections that are on the surface of the skin. A physical examination of...learn more »
    • Scabies Scabies are itch mites that burrow under the skin and produce intense itching that's usually worse at night. Symptoms of scabies...learn more »
    • Scalp Psoriasis Scalp psoriasis causes red, raised, scaly patches that may extend from the scalp to the forehead and the back of the neck and...learn more »
      In This Article
      Scalp Psoriasis Article
      • What is scalp psoriasis?
      • What is the cause of scalp psoriasis?
      • What are scalp psoriasis symptoms and signs?
      • How is scalp psoriasis diagnosed?
      • What are topical treatments and home remedies for scalp psoriasis?
      • What are office treatments for scalp psoriasis?
      • What are systemic treatments for psoriasis?
      • What is the prognosis of psoriasis? Is there a cure for psoriasis?
      • Are there support groups for individuals with psoriasis?
    • Seborrheic Dermatitis Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic skin condition. Symptoms and signs include a red, scaling rash on the scalp, face, ears, and...learn more »
      In This Article
      Seborrheic Dermatitis Article
      • Seborrheic dermatitis facts
      • What is seborrheic dermatitis?
      • What are risk factors for seborrheic dermatitis?
      • What causes seborrheic dermatitis?
      • What are seborrheic dermatitis symptoms and signs?
      • How is seborrheic dermatitis diagnosed?
      • What is the treatment for seborrheic dermatitis?
      • What are complications of seborrheic dermatitis?
      • What is the prognosis of seborrheic dermatitis?
      • Can seborrheic dermatitis be prevented?
    • Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Women (STDs) Sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs, are infections that are transmitted during any type of sexual exposure, including...learn more »
      In This Article
      Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Women (STDs) Article
      • Sexually transmitted diseases (STD) facts
      • What are sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)?
      • Gonorrhea
      • Chlamydia
      • Syphilis
      • Genital Herpes
      • Human Papillomaviruses (HPVs) and Genital Warts
      • Chancroid
      • Ectoparasitic Infections
      • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
      • Hepatitis B
      • Hepatitis C
      • Conclusions
    • Shingles Shingles, or herpes zoster, is a painful rash caused by the varicella zoster virus. Other shingles symptoms include headache,...learn more »
      In This Article
      Shingles Article
      • Shingles (herpes zoster) facts
      • What is shingles? What does shingles look like?
      • What causes shingles?
      • What are risk factors for shingles?
      • What is the contagious period for shingles?
      • What are shingles symptoms and signs?
      • How is shingles diagnosed?
      • What is the treatment for shingles?
      • Are there any home remedies for shingles?
      • What is the duration of a shingles outbreak?
      • What are complications of shingles?
      • What can be done for recurrent shingles?
      • What is the prognosis of shingles?
      • Is it possible to prevent shingles with a vaccine?
    • Sick Building Syndrome Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) or also referred to as sick building syndrome or environmental illness is the name given by...learn more »
      In This Article
      Sick Building Syndrome Article
      • Sick building syndrome facts
      • What is sick building syndrome?
      • Why is sick building syndrome controversial?
      • What causes sick building syndrome?
      • What are risk factors for sick building syndrome?
      • What are sick building syndrome symptoms and signs?
      • How is sick building syndrome diagnosed?
      • What is the treatment for sick building syndrome?
      • What are complications of sick building syndrome?
      • What is the prognosis of sick building syndrome?
      • Is there a way to prevent sick building syndrome?
    • STDs in Men Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infections transmitted during sexual contact. They may be caused by viruses, bacteria,...learn more »
      In This Article
      STDs in Men Article
      • What are sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
      • Who is at risk for STDs?
      • What causes STDs?
      • What are the signs and symptoms of STDs?
      • List of STDs in men
      • Chlamydia
      • Gonorrhea
      • Trichomoniasis
      • HIV
      • Genital herpes
      • Genital warts (HPV)
      • Hepatitis
      • Syphilis
      • How are STDs diagnosed?
      • What is the treatment for STDs?
      • What is the prognosis for STDs?
      • Can STDs be prevented?
    • Ticks Ticks are known transmitters of disease to humans and animals. Tick-borne diseases include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted...learn more »
      In This Article
      Ticks Article
      • Tick facts
      • What are ticks?
      • What are tick bite symptoms and signs?
      • What diseases do ticks transmit (act as vectors) to humans?
      • How is a tick bite diagnosed?
      • What are the symptoms and signs of diseases transmitted by ticks?
      • What is the treatment for a tick bite?
      • How is a tick removed from the skin?
      • What is the prognosis (outlook) for people who get a tick bite?
      • What are the risk factors for tick bites?
      • How are bites from ticks prevented?
      • Where can I find more information about ticks?
    • Yeast Infection (in Women and Men) Vaginal yeast infections in women are caused by an organism called Candida albicans. Symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection...learn more »
      In This Article
      Yeast Infection (in Women and Men) Article
      • Vaginal yeast infection facts
      • What is a vaginal yeast infection?
      • What causes a vaginal yeast infection?
      • What are the signs and symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection?
      • What may increase my risk of getting a vaginal yeast infection?
      • How is a vaginal yeast infection diagnosed?
      • Are there home remedies to treat a vaginal yeast infection?
      • What over-the-counter (OTC) medications are available to treat a vaginal yeast infection?
      • When are oral prescription medications used to treat a vaginal yeast infection?
      • How can a yeast infection be treated if I am pregnant?
      • Can a man get a yeast infection from his sexual partner?
      • What are the symptoms of a yeast infection in men?
      • What is the treatment for yeast infection in men?
      • How can vaginal yeast infections be prevented?
      • What about recurrent yeast infections?
      • How can you protect yourself from contracting a yeast infection from your sexual partner?
Other Causes of Itch

Diffuse (Generalized) Itching:

Examples of Medications for Itch


Symptoms & Signs A-Z List