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Pruritus is a condition of chronic itching, which can be very uncomfortable and embarrassing. It causes a sensation of discomfort and itchiness. This condition can be exacerbated by excessive dryness. Pruritus is more common in adults since the skin tends to lose its natural moisture barrier with age.

Several reasons can cause pruritus.

Understanding Pruritus

Pruritus is one of the most common dermatological conditions. It is not a serious condition though it can cause severe discomfort to the patient. It occurs with a range of skin issues and can also be a marker of systemic disease.

Most commonly, pruritus is caused due to an inflammation of the skin. However, in some cases, this can be caused due to damage to certain nerves.  Skin related causes of pruritus include scabies, psoriasis, contact dermatitis, fungal infections, and even sunburns.

Systemic diseases can also present itching. These include hypothyroidism, asthma, hepatitis, abuse of drugs, and anemia.

Symptoms of Pruritus :

Pruritus means itchy skin . Apart from itching, you might have other physiological symptoms depending on the underlying cause. These symptoms include:

  • Dry and cracked skin
  • Redness
  • Blisters, spots, or bumps
  • Scaly or leathery skin

Pruritus can last a long time and could feed upon itself. The more it itches, the tendency to scratch increases. As you rub or scratch the region, the itchiness will also increase. You must break this cycle as you could cause trauma to the skin if you scratch too much.


While most cases of pruritus are harmless, it can develop into a situation where you should seek medical attention. Keep an eye out for the following developments if you are experiencing itchiness.

  • It is so severe that it distracts you from your daily routine
  • Sudden onset with no explanation
  • Lasts more than two weeks even with self-soothing treatments
  • Tiredness, weight loss, increased urination, changed bowel movements
  • Affects your whole body


There are two ways to address pruritus – medically and home treatments. Since most cases of pruritus  are innocuous, you should try home remedies first. These include:

  • Heavy moisturizers with no fragrance or essential oils
  • Regular usage of sunscreen
  • Mild bath soap to prevent irritation
  • Using lukewarm water when bathing and not hot water
  • Wearing only natural fabrics like cotton and linen that aren’t abrasive and lets your skin breathe
  • Use a humidifier to restore your skin’s moisture barrier
  • Use an ice cube or warm washcloth to relieve the itching

In case these remedies do not provide any relief, or the itchiness continues for longer than two weeks, you must seek medical treatment. A doctor will be able to determine the cause of the pruritus and give you the right medication for the same. They may also prescribe medical  treatment for the itching. These include:

  • Corticosteroids in the form of ointments or creams. You will need to apply this on the affected area and cover it with a damp cloth to seal in the moisture.
  • Other creams or ointments contain calcineurin inhibitors or topical anesthetics.
  • Oral medications like antidepressants for chronic itching or antihistamines.
  • Phototherapy or light therapy can be administered until the itching subsides.


Severe itching could cause you to scratch too hard, which can then cause trauma to the skin or even spread any possibility of an infection. The following precautions may also be taken:

  • Do not wear polyester clothes that trap sweat on your skin as it can exacerbate the itching.
  • Do not scratch as much as possible. Make sure that your nails are cut short and are clean.
  • Do not self-medicate with strong creams or drugs.
  • Make sure that you reduce any stress by exercising and meditating regularly.

Dietary Regulations

Pruritus could also be caused by an allergic reaction, particularly to any new foods you may have tried recently. In any case, keep the following things in mind:

  • Keep track of any new food items that you may have consumed
  • Do get an allergy test done

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. Can itchy skin be a sign of something serious?

Itchy skin is usually innocuous but rarely can be attributed to several serious conditions like lymphoma and kidney failure. This is why, you must consult a doctor if the itchiness persists for longer than two weeks.

  1. What medication is used for pruritus?

The medication prescribed for pruritus depends on the cause of the condition. Your doctor might prescribe antihistamines, topical corticosteroids, or phototherapy.

  1. How long can pruritus last?

Chronic pruritus can last a very long time and can be extremely distressing  to the patient. If you or your family member are experiencing itchiness for longer than two weeks, then please consult your primary healthcare physician at the earliest.

Verified By Apollo Dermatologist
The content is carefully chosen and thoughtfully organized and verified by our panel expert dermatologists who have years of experience in their field. We aim to spread awareness to all those individuals who are curious and would like to know more about their skin and beauty
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