Why does the skin itch

Widespread itching of the skin

Itching (pruritus) occurs when the messenger substance histamine is released in the body - e.g. B. by inflammatory processes. Nerve fibers transmit the sensation to the brain, where it triggers the typical, reflex-like urge to scratch. The resulting slight pain leads to an immediate, if only short-term, interruption of the itching. Because the pain-conducting nerve fibers are so fast that they overtake the nerve fibers that are responsible for the itching. As a result, the pain, as a “minor evil”, is superimposed on the itching, which is experienced as particularly unpleasant. As soon as the pain subsides, however, the itching usually returns, often intensified.

Depending on the duration of the itching, a distinction is made between large-scale and localized occurrence as well as an acute and a chronic form.

Localized itching usually also has a local cause: for example, contact dermatitis in the area where the jeans button is located, on the scalp where the sebum is particularly pronounced, or in the areas where the beard grows again.

Large-scale itching lasting up to 6 weeks usually has a verifiable, physical cause. In the simplest case, too dry skin is the trigger, e.g. due to incorrect care or, in the case of senior citizens, as a result of aging of the skin. But even serious illnesses that at first glance have nothing to do with the skin can make themselves felt as inexplicable itching. These include diabetes mellitus, an overactive thyroid or liver cirrhosis.

Prolonged, extensive itching often, but not always, also has a physical cause such as diabetes mellitus, liver, gallbladder, kidney or thyroid disease. However, it is not uncommon for chronic itching not to be a physical trigger. If the person concerned suffers from chronic stress or unresolved conflicts, the itching often has a psychological component: It then symbolizes the desire to “get out of the skin”.

Symptoms, their causes, measures and self-help

  • Extensive itching without further symptoms and without known pre-existing conditions such as diabetes

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  • Widespread itching with known diabetes or symptoms such as severe thirst, frequent urination; Weight loss, fatigue

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  • Widespread itching on dry, slightly flaky skin; often feeling of tension; Increased itching in cold or dry heated air; Tendency to eczema

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  • Itching, which, according to those affected, is caused by (undetectable) small animals

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  • Extensive itching with a noticeably "blooming" complexion

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  • Widespread itching with nodular swellings, e.g. B. on the neck, armpits, groin; possibly exhaustion; possibly fever, night sweats, weight loss

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  • Widespread itching with increased sweating and weight loss; Cravings, diarrhea; Restlessness, trembling hands; possibly protruding eyes

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  • Widespread itching with brown discoloration of the skin; increased sensitivity of the skin to light; Nausea, vomiting

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  • Widespread itching with yellowish discoloration of the skin and / or conjunctiva

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  • Widespread itching when taking medication, usually with jaundice (jaundice)

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  • Widespread itching with skin rash when taking medication

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Extensive itching without further symptoms and without known pre-existing conditions such as diabetes

Causes:

Measure:

  • In the next few days to the family doctor or dermatologist

Self help:


Widespread itching with known diabetes or with symptoms such as severe thirst, frequent urination; Weight loss, fatigue

Root cause:

Measure:

  • On the same day to the family doctor

Widespread itching on dry, slightly flaky skin; often feeling of tension; Increased itching in cold or dry heated air; Tendency to eczema

Causes:

  • Predictive dryness of the skin, usually increased in old age (old age skin)
  • Cleaning measures with a strong degreasing effect
  • Textiles made from airtight or rough materials (e.g. synthetics, wool)

Measure:

  • In the next few weeks to the family doctor or dermatologist if self-help measures are not enough

Self help:

  • Do not bathe or shower daily, moisturizing and pH-neutral soaps, shower gels and bath products
  • After cleansing the skin, apply cream with high-fat emulsions or oil
  • Humidify room air
  • Breathable clothing, avoid wool
  • Avoid alcohol, hot spices and very hot drinks

Itching, which, according to those affected, is caused by (undetectable) small animals

Root cause:

Measure:

  • In the next few days to the family doctor or psychiatrist

Extensive itching with a noticeably "blooming" complexion

Root cause:

Measure:

  • In the next few days to the family doctor

Widespread itching with nodular swellings, e.g. B. on the neck, armpits, groin; possibly exhaustion; possibly fever, night sweats, weight loss

Root cause:

Measure:

  • In the next week to the family doctor

Widespread itching with increased sweating and weight loss; Cravings, diarrhea; Restlessness, trembling hands; possibly protruding eyes

Root cause:

Measure:

  • In the next few days to the family doctor

Widespread itching with brown discoloration of the skin; increased sensitivity of the skin to light; Nausea, vomiting

Root cause:

Measure:

  • In the next few days to the family doctor

Widespread itching with yellowish discoloration of the skin and / or conjunctiva

Root cause:

Jaundice (jaundice) in diseases of the liver and biliary tract, e.g. B.

Measure:

  • On the same day to the family doctor

Widespread itching when taking medication, usually with jaundice (jaundice)

Root cause:

Liver damage as a drug side effect z. B. from

Measure:

  • On the same day to the family doctor

Widespread itching with skin rash when taking medication

Root cause:

Measure:

  • On the same day to the family doctor

Your pharmacy recommends

Cool affected areas of skin.

Cold helps against itching because, like pain when scratching, it "superimposes" the itching. In contrast to scratching, the skin remains intact, which is why nothing speaks against its use. Local cooling pads, cold showers, and cooling lotions work well. Especially at night, when the itching is perceived as particularly annoying, it helps to create a cool environment: pajamas and bed linen should ideally be made of light, natural fabrics such as linen or cotton, an open window should ensure a pleasant draft and a lukewarm shower in the evening "cool down" the body.

Redirect itching impulse.

As a rule, the itching impulse is so strong that it is hardly possible to deliberately suppress the scratching. However, since scratched areas of the skin can easily become inflamed and cause itching, it should be avoided at all costs. One trick is to "react" to objects on behalf of yourself, e.g. B. on pillows or sofa armrests - the reflexive scratching is acted out without damaging the skin. If the itching cannot be suppressed at all, short fingernails and gloves will help to minimize the risk of injury.

Take care of your skin.

In addition to causing itching, dry skin can make it worse. In principle, water that is too hot and frequent use of soaps or other cleansing preparations dry out the skin. This is remedied by special moisturizing and alcohol-free hygiene products. Ideally, you should seek advice when buying from a specialist such as your pharmacist, who can recommend washing lotions and creams that are especially suitable for your skin type.

Relaxation procedure.

If the itching is psychological, relaxation techniques such as autogenic training, progressive muscle relaxation and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) fight the symptoms at their roots. But even if the itching has an organic cause, they make sense: they help to deal with the itching - by learning to accept it and evaluate it differently.

Authors

Dr. med. Arne Schäffler; Dr. med. | last changed on at 15:35


Important note: This article has been written according to scientific standards and has been checked by medical professionals. The information communicated in this article can in no way replace professional advice in your pharmacy. The content cannot and must not be used to make independent diagnoses or to start therapy.