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Baylor Scott & White Supportive and Palliative Care

​​​Itching or pruritus can be one of the most disruptive and annoying symptoms that seriously ill patients can have.  Itching can cause severe emotional anguish, severe physical anguish, discomfort, and skin damage and infections.  Itching is not a symptom that should be ignored or viewed as less important than others.  Severe itching needs assessment and treatment immediately.

What are Some of the Causes of Itching?

While it is easy to diagnose some causes of itching, other causes are not so easy to determine. The main causes of itching are:​

  • Medication; Opioid pain medications frequently cause itching especially when you first start taking them or your physician increases your dose. Sensitivities or allergies to other medications can also cause severe itching.
  • Kidney Failure; end-stage renal disease patients may develop uremia, a dangerous condition common in the final state of chronic kidney disease. The pruritus​ associated​ with uremia can be disabling and affects about 80 to 90 percent of end-stage renal disease patients.
  • Dermatitis; this​ is an irritation or inflammation​ of the skin from any cause including skin reactions to soap, creams, latex, and other chemicals. Switching to all natural, fragrance-free, organic health and beauty products may help. Complications of dermatitis include a rash, flaking and itching of dry skin, and fungal infections.
  • Sweating; this can be a real problem especially for bed-bound patients. It can cause skin irritation, itching, and pressure sores.

Itching is a common symptom in many health conditions including:​

  • Esclerosis múltiple
  • Brain tumors
  • Herpes
  • Some forms of cancer
  • Metabolic diseases

What are Some Ways to Stop or Relieve the Itching?

Simple steps to prevent or treat itching include:​

  • Avoid excessive heat
  • Turn on a humidifier in your room
  • Apply all-natural mild lotions liberally especially after a bath or shower
  • Avoid skin irritants such as wool, pet hair, most commercial​ soaps, and scented products
  • Apply a cool compress to itchy areas​
  • Wear clean, loose-fitting, 100% cotton clothing
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