Itching

Itching is a tingling or irritation of the skin that makes you want to scratch the affected area. It may occur all over the whole body (generalized) or only in one location (localized).

Causes

There are many causes of itching, including:

  • Aging skin
  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Contact dermatitis (poison ivy or poison oak)
  • Contact irritants (such as soaps, chemicals, or wool)
  • Dry skin
  • Hives
  • Insect bites and stings
  • Parasites such as pinworm, body lice, head lice, and pubic lice
  • Rashes (may or may not itch)
  • Sunburn
  • Superficial skin infections such as folliculitis and impetigo

Generalized itching may be caused by:

  • Allergic reactions
  • Childhood infections (such as chickenpox or measles)
  • Hepatitis
  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease with jaundice
  • Pregnancy
  • Reactions to medications and substances such as antibiotics (penicillin, sulfonamides), gold, griseofulvin, isoniazid, opiates, phenothiazines, or vitamin A