Itchy skin is usually just an annoying buttemporary problem, and rarely indicates a serious underlying cause.

But you should see your GP if your itch:

  • is severe
  • lasts for a long time
  • keeps coming back
  • is associated with other symptoms such asredness and swelling, or yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes(jaundice)
  • is all over your body, with no obvious cause

Findyour local GP.

Diagnosing the cause

The medical name for itching is pruritus.

Your GP will ask you about your symptoms for example, if anything makes your itch worse, or if your itch comes and goes. They'll also examine your skin to look for visible symptoms.

In some cases, they may take a skin scraping or a swab so it can be tested to help identify the cause of your itching.

A blood testmay also be carried out to look for underlying problems, such as thyroid or kidney disease.

Depending on the cause ofyour itch, you may be referred to ahospital specialist for a further assessment and specific treatment.

Common causes of itching

Itching can be caused by a number of different conditions, including:

  • skin conditionssuch aseczema
  • allergies or skin reactions
  • parasitic infestationssuch asscabies
  • insect bites andstings
  • fungal infectionssuch asathlete's foot or vaginal thrush
  • hormonal changes during pregnancy or the menopause
  • an underlying condition such as liver or kidney problems,or an overactive thyroid gland

Read aboutthe possible causes of itching.


If you experience troublesome itching, the following advice may help:

  • pat or tap the itchy area, rather than scratching it
  • hold a cold compress, such as adamp flannel, over the affected area to cool it down
  • bathe or shower in cool or lukewarm water
  • use unperfumed personal hygiene products
  • avoidclothes that irritate your skin, such as wool or man-made fabrics
  • usea moisturiser oremollient if your skin is dry or flaky

Over-the-countermedicines, such asantihistamines and steroid creams, may help relieve itching caused by certain skin conditions.


Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 16 Dec 2016