What can you do about your itchy skin?
There are several things that you can do to prevent and relieve itchy skin before you see the dermatologist.
- You should use a good moisturiser to keep your skin well hydrated ideally one which does not have any parabens or perfumes in it which could cause irritation and allergy.
- You must avoid scratching because that can worsen the itch by the release of histamine which is a substance which causes the redness, inflammation and swelling and itchiness.
- You should stay away from all soaps, detergents and other substances that may contain perfumes and colour dyes.
- You should avoid using fabric softeners that can contain chemicals that cause irritation and allergy.
- You can try over-the-counter anti-itch creams but be careful not to buy creams containing a steroid. Steroids might make things worse. You should only use steroid cream with the advice of a dermatologist.
- You can try taking oral histamine such as Piriton. Piriton is an excellent option for quick relief of itching as it reduces the inflammatory pathway and hence the swelling and redness and itchiness which are signs of the histamine release.
Most itching is eminently treatable and does not indicate a serious problem. However, you should seek medical help in diagnosing the cause of your itch if it does not go away very quickly if you do not know what has been causing it or if it is severe or you are getting other symptoms as well.
When you go to see your dermatologist, they will take a thorough history and carry out a physical examination of your skin and will ask you several questions about your symptoms. In particular, they will want to know
- How long have you had the irritation?
- Is the irritation constant or does it come and go?
- What aggravates the itchy skin? Is it worse at different times of the month?
- Have you been in contact with any irritating substances?
- Do you have allergies?
- Where is the itching most severe?
- Are you on any medications or have you taken any recently?
The doctor may have to take blood tests, check your thyroid function and do skin tests. Skin tests nowadays are extremely sophisticated and are run to detect about 30 or 40 different substances that are common in daily living.
The dermatologist may also want to do a scrape or biopsy of the skin if they suspect there may have been an infective cause or a tumour cause.
If you are on any tablets the typical ones that can use rashes and widespread itching are antifungals, antibiotics especially sulphur based ones, painkillers particularly narcotic ones and anticonvulsant medications for epilepsy. It is best to stop your tablets if it is safe to do so.