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Itching of the skin

Itching of the skin

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Itchy skin rash can be a symptom of many different diseases, such as scabies, chickenpox, dermatitis, rubella, measles etc. Even though sometimes the rash is harmless and can go away on its own, itchy bumps on skin may be a warning sign and a reason to visit a general practitioner or dermatologist.

Many different skin diseases present with a rash. It can also be a symptom of many infectious diseases, for example chickenpox, Lyme’s disease or fungal infections. The rash is the most common objective sign of the disease, and itching is the most common symptom. Since these two symptoms are so common, it can be hard to differentiate between the diseases that manifest as red itchy bumps. Luckily, each disease has its typical rash pattern.

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Scabies is a highly contagious parasitic skin disease, caused by the mite Sarcoptes scabiei. It manifests as a very itchy skin rash. The disease usually affects wrists, elbows, armpits and the area between the fingers. Even when the rash is all over the body, some areas, like back, chest and face, stay unaffected. This rash also has a specific feature – you can see two little holes on each bump. The mites make those holes by going into and out of the skin, thus, forming so called caves, or burrows. Itch usually intensifies at night, especially in warm surroundings. One may catch scabies from already infected person or by using infested clothing, bedding etc. Management of the disease includes:

  • Permetrine ointment.
  • Disinfection of clothes and personal belongings is of crucial importance. Sarcoptes scabiei dies at 55° C degrees temperature in 10 minutes.
  • Even if family members do not have any symptoms (itchy skin at night, a specific rash), they need to be treated as well.

Chickenpox

Chickenpox is a very contagious viral infection and yet another disease that can cause itching all over the body. The most prominent features of the chickenpox rash are following:

  • It is a polymorphic rash. It means that you can spot different types of rash elements in the same vision field. The rash usually starts as a vesicle or macule, which then develops into papule and finally forms a crust. Therefore, simultaneously you can see rashes of different evolutionary stages.
  • The chickenpox rash does not affect skin gradually, unlike measles.
  • After the rash is gone, it can leave spots of hypo- or hyperpigmentation. These pigmented spots disappear in weeks or months.
  • The most common primary rash element is a vesicle.
  • The rash affects hairy skin as well. However, soles and palms remain unaffected.
  • Chickenpox rash cause intense itching of the skin.

About 90% of children that are exposed to Varicella zoster virus will get the disease. The disease mostly affects children and the course of it is mild. Chickenpox in adulthood is prone to be quite severe. Sometimes, it may be lethal.

Dry itchy skin

Dry and itchy skin does not mean you have a skin condition. Sometimes, especially in winter, skin becomes very dry and starts to itch. To manage this condition, you have to use emollients in order to nourish the skin. Dry and itchy skin treatment includes:

  • Ointments with glycerin.
  • Skin protection- gloves, facial creams (according to your skin type and season).

Measles

Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that nowadays is rather uncommon due to MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine. In most countries, all children are vaccinated against those diseases. As a result, most of them have become immune to the measles virus. The vaccine also forms immunity to mumps and rubella.

Even though most children get the vaccine, there are still some cases of the disease. Characteristics of the rash include:

  • The rash affects skin gradually – it begins from the head and then spreads to the lower parts of the body. When the rash manifests on legs, it starts disappearing from the head.
  • When the rash goes away, it leaves pigmented spots.  
  • The rash is reddish in color.
  • Enanthema of the palate is quite common as well.
  • Measles can also cause conjunctivitis and a runny nose. Patients are usually afraid of the light.

Rubella

Rubella is another infection that can cause an itchy rash. This viral infection used to cause many deaths in children. Now most of the cases are avoided thanks to the MMR vaccine. Nevertheless, some infants can still get the disease before the vaccination. Infants cannot be vaccinated when they are born, because they still have antibodies to rubella from their mother, which will kill the vaccine. Characteristics of the rubella rash include:

  • Like measles, it affects skin gradually.
  • It is pinkish in color.
  • Residual pigmentation is unusual.

Dermatitis

Many different types of dermatitis can cause itchy skin rash:

  • Atopic dermatitis, which usually starts in childhood, can cause a very intense itch.
  • Allergic contact dermatitis, irritant contact dermatitis can also present with the same symptoms. For example, itchy skin on the neck can be caused by jewelry, which provoked allergic contact dermatitis.

Sometimes it can be hard to differentiate between different forms of dermatitis, because they all have similar symptoms. For this reason, it is very advisable to visit a dermatologist who will determine the exact cause of your itchy skin rash.

How to relieve the itch and manage itchy skin rash?

Itchy skin treatment depends on the cause. Certain medications relieve itch, but first your doctor needs to determine the underlying cause of your disease. For example, chickenpox rash cannot be cured; it is only possible to relieve symptoms with specific ointments. The treatment also depends on the affected body part. For example, itchy skin on face requires different treatment measures than itchy hands or scalp.