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Itchy skin

Definition of pruritus
Pruritus is the medical term to describe the itching of the skin, which leads to scratching to soothe discomfort. The "Scratch'n" is due to the stimulation of certain nerve receptors in the skin, by substances such as histamine. This local release of excitatory substances is not always obvious cause: pruritus can exist without dermatological lesion.

Causes itching due to pruritus

Skin lesion
Itching may accompany a skin lesion. It is "sufficient" to the patient or the doctor, to recognize it for the cause of pruritus and treated accordingly. The most common situations are atopic eczema, hives (food allergy, contact, drug, or insect bites), skin by fungi (dermatophytes) infections, scabies (a highly contagious disease caused by the mite and favored by poor hygiene), sunburn (summer light eruption), insect bites, or allergies to certain drugs (drug toxidermia) finally chickenpox.

Liver disease
In the absence of skin lesions, a search for other general organic causes, such as liver disease. Hepatic cholestasis (bile blocked, badly produced and poorly drained to the intestine) causes the accumulation of bile salts in the blood, accumulation is expressed by pruritus and jaundice of the skin. Kidney disease, certain cancers, leukemia or lymphoma, thyroid disease or parathyroid glands, HIV infection, or parasitic infections also cause itchy skin.

Dry skin
If all organic causes have been eliminated, we note a dry skin (xerosis), especially during the advance in age the skin aging (senile) reacts more often with itching all kinds of aggression.

Finally, as a last resort, it evokes a "psychogenic pruritus", that is to say, due to psychological stress. This is not the easiest to treat ...

Note: acne and rash illness of the child (except chicken pox) are not itching.

Itching: What are the risks?
The first risk is the appearance of itching skin wounds due to scratching, which can become infected (i mp├ętigo, erysipelas). Over time, the skin may thicken to form what doctors call lichenification. It can change color (depigmentation) or ulcerate (destruction with abrasions, ulcers).
The most serious, but not the most common risk is to ignore a general disease in pruritus without visible injury. We must therefore talk to your doctor quickly enough when the itching persists, especially when it occurs everywhere on the body.

What to do in case of itching
1 - In all cases, clean and disinfect the skin lesions if any, to prevent infection.

2 - Apply an emollient cream (which protects the skin) to protect dry or senile skin.

3 - Do not "play doctor" by applying another type of cream that you do not know the effect, or take any medication without prescription, at the risk of aggravating the situation.

4 - The right treatment is always that the exact cause: only the correct diagnosis ensures the right treatment.

When to see a doctor?
Consult your doctor if the itching persists with or without skin lesions. This avoids neglect of any serious systemic disease. Does not recognize skin lesions responsible for scratching, it will send you to a dermatologist, who will then make a diagnosis and propose a treatment that eliminates scratching himself.
In some cases, the doctor simply prescribe antihistamine tablets that do not treat disease but attenuate the skin reaction to histamine, thus scratching.

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