There’s no feeling more urgent and frustrating like the need to scratch an itch — especially if it’s in a spot you can’t reach. And to add even more discomfort, it feels like the more you scratch, the more your skin itches. What gives?
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Usually, the culprit behind the itchy skin mystery is not so threatening: dry skin.
While dry skin is most apparent in the winter, aging also has an effect. As we get older, hormone levels change and skin becomes more thin and dry. However, caring for your skin and using moisturizers regularly can help offset these effects.
In other cases, itch can signal other undiagnosed medical issues that need a doctor’s attention.
Dermatologist Shilpi Khetarpal, MD, says, “Usually, the problem is traced to dry skin, however reactions to medications and other underlying conditions can also cause itching,” she says.
“It’s a symptom you don’t want to ignore, especially if it continues for an extended period of time.”
Dry skin is the most common culprit for itch. Here’s what can strip your skin of moisture, and what to do to soothe your skin:
If you wonder what’s causing your itch, here are some symptoms to watch for:
In these cases, itching will typically affect your whole body while your skin appears normal. If you think an underlying medical problem could be involved with your itching, call your doctor. Treatment of the underlying illness will improve the itching.
In general, your itchy skin should improve within weeks if you follow simple skin care steps.
“If these changes do not bring relief and are distracting you from your daily routines or affecting your sleep, you should see your dermatologist,” Dr. Khetarpal says. When skin is very dry, it may require a prescription ointment or cream, she says.