Pruritus

What is pruritus? You are surely familiar with pruritus, even if you don’t recognize the term. This is one of the most common skin complaints, more commonly referred to as an itch. It is the irritating sensation that makes you feel the need to scratch. Pruritus is caused by a nerve reaction to specific chemicals such as histamines, though the precise physiological process involved is not fully understood.

Itching can range from a minor annoyance to an overwhelming frustration. In some cases, particularly when the problem is severe and chronic, it can lead to depression, anxiety, and insomnia.

Causes of pruritus

Anyone of any age and any skin type can develop this problem. It is especially prevalent in diabetics, people with weakened immune systems, individuals suffering from seasonal allergies, and the elderly. Pregnant women are susceptible to a specific form of pruritus called Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy, or PUPPP.

There is a virtually endless list of possible causes for pruritus. Some of the most common include:
  • Head lice and other parasitic infections.
  • Viral infections such as chicken pox.
  • Internal medical conditions such as kidney failure.
  • Dry skin.

Preventing pruritus

Although virtually everyone will experience itching to some degree at least occasionally, you can take steps to help avoid serious pruritus, such as:
  • Avoid excessive, unnecessary hand washing or other activities that involve repeatedly wetting and drying the skin.
  • When bathing, keep the water tepid or lukewarm.
  • Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Choose gentle cleansers that are appropriate for your skin type.
  • Carefully rinse your skin after cleansing to ensure that no soap residue remains.
  • Use a good-quality moisturizing product immediately following water exposure, and regularly throughout the day.

Pruritus treatment at Dr. W Dermatology

Treatment typically includes oral steroids, topical steroids, antihistamines, or other medications to control itching. However, treating the symptoms without treating the cause rarely yields satisfactory results. Therefore, before recommending any treatment, your doctor will determine the root cause of the pruritus. This may be accomplished with a visual examination, or tissue samples may be taken for diagnostic evaluation.

If you experience intolerable, chronic, or recurring itching, or any other skin problems, let us help. Call Dr. W Dermatology at 281 771-0494 and schedule an appointment to visit our Katy or Houston office.