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Itching

What is Itching?

Itching is a very common irritation of the skin that creates an urge to scratch. The reflex scratching can be regarded as a way to keep irritants away from skin contact. Animals also have the scratch reflex, and it is thought to benefit them, for example, by effectively removing insects off of their skin.

Itching and Scratching

Itching induces an intense desire to scratch. This is a powerful reflex that can be very difficult to control. In some cases, it can be impossible to control, as patients who suffer from chronic itching often scratch during their sleep and aren't conscious of their scratching. While this reflex is likely to have developed to remove insects or other irritants away from the skin, it can present a problem to those with a chronic skin problem, as scratching can easily damage the skin, which often worsens the skin problem, creating further itching.

What causes itching?

Itching can be caused by many different skin conditions, as well as by simple dry skin. Itching can also originate from stress or anxiety, as well as allergies, or from sun exposure. It can also originate from internal problems such as liver or kidney diseases, and the skin may not show any signs of damage in these cases. In short, itching can be caused by many different factors, and it is very difficult to identify the cause without other evidence. Below is a partial list of common causes of itching:

Skin Conditions

  • Allergies
  • Athlete's foot (and other fungal infections)
  • Dandruff
  • Eczema
  • Herpes
  • Hives
  • Psoriasis
  • Scabies
  • Shaving irritation
  • Swimmer's itch

Internal Problems

  • Cancer (certain types, like lymphoma)
  • Diabetes
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Lymphoma
  • Menopause (and other hormonal changes)

Other causes

  • Dry skin
  • Insect bites
  • Irritation from external sources
  • Shaving
 
     
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