Itching is an unpleasant sensation on the skin or mucous membrane of the body. It is expressed in tingling, irritation, sometimes burning, and causes an urgent need to scratch the affected area. Most often, itching occurs when discomfort occurs on the surface of the skin due to dermatological and allergic diseases, insect bites, during the healing of wounds and burns. It also occurs in liver diseases and endocrinological disorders.

Itching in the anus and on the surrounding skin (anal) can be caused by parasites, diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. Often it is caused by hemorrhoids and anal fissure, weakness of the sphincter of the anus (the latter is characteristic of the elderly).   

Itching can also occur in the intimate area.

In this article, we will look at the main causes of itching, the symptoms for which you need to see a doctor immediately, and we will also analyze the treatment methods that are used for various types of itching.

Itching in adults

Itching in women

Itching during pregnancy

Itching in women during pregnancy is of two types – skin and genital itching. Each of them has its own reasons and characteristics.

Itchy skin can be caused by liver problems, which can increase the level of bilirubin in the blood.

A predisposition to itching of the skin is in those women who, before pregnancy, suffered from chronic diseases of the liver and biliary tract, had a high level of cholesterol in the blood. Eliminate itching in this case will help the appointment of permitted choleretic drugs, adherence to a special diet and drinking plenty of fluids.

Another reason for the appearance of itchy skin in women, characteristic of the second half of pregnancy, is the stretching of the skin on the chest and abdomen due to the rapid increase in their size. An unpleasant feature that many women are subject to is the appearance of scars ( stretch marks ) in places of the most severe stretching. For those who want to avoid their appearance, it is recommended to use special products, moisturizers, do a light massage of the skin, and refuse from a hot shower.

Itching in women during pregnancy can be caused by gestational diabetes. Diabetes in pregnancy is a temporary rise in blood glucose levels associated with hormonal changes. As a result of the disease, the skin suffers – it becomes dry, flaky, microcracks appear on it, through which infection can penetrate. For patients with diabetes, fungal skin lesions are also characteristic. It is possible to eliminate skin manifestations by controlling the underlying disease – diabetes. This is done by an endocrinologist.

Sometimes pregnant women complain of itching in an intimate place. In addition to uncomfortable clothes and linen, insufficient hygiene, its causes can be:

  • Decreased immunity, due to which pathogenic bacteria and fungi multiply in the vagina. Symptoms of the disease in this case are discharge with an unpleasant odor or odorless itching, burning sensation when urinating.  
  • Inflammation ( colpitis , vaginitis) caused by sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Common diseases – diabetes, hepatitis, blood diseases.
  • Stress, physical and emotional stress.

Treatment of itching in the vagina during pregnancy is prescribed by a gynecologist after examination and examination (blood sampling, smear and microflora culture).

Itching in nursing mothers

Itching of the skin and mucous membranes in women who are breastfeeding can occur for the same reasons as everyone:

  • Skin diseases.
  • Diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, liver and endocrine disorders.
  • Sexual infections.
  • Hemorrhoids and anal fissure.

Treatment of itching in each of these cases consists in treating the underlying disease that caused it. For this, drugs are used that are approved for breastfeeding.

There is also a special reason for the appearance of itching, characteristic of the feeding period – changes in the hormonal background. By reducing the production of estrogens, which provide firmness and elasticity to the skin, it becomes dry and dull. In addition, young mothers, taking care of the baby, cannot devote enough time to caring for themselves, do not get enough sleep and get tired.

The deficiency of vitamins and microelements also affects the condition of the skin, because women pass them on to their child with milk, but they do not always make up for their losses by taking vitamin complexes. Dry skin actively peels off, itching and burning are unnerving and haunted. To get rid of dryness, it is recommended to use a local moisturizer and drink plenty of water. Hormonal changes in the body after pregnancy, its adaptation to the period of breastfeeding will be completed within a few months, and the skin will become smooth and blooming again.

Itching in men

Itching in the intimate area is a phenomenon characteristic of the stronger sex. Therefore, they often scratch their groin, and when asked about the reasons they simply say: “Itches.” In fact, there are several explanations for itching in men:

  • Insufficient hygiene – a reaction on the skin appears due to the aggressive effects of urine.
  • Itching in the intimate area can cause inflammation of the foreskin ( balanoposthitis ).
  • Sexually transmitted infections and diseases (including genital herpes) are the cause of itching in men.  
  • Pediculosis and scabies.
  • Allergies (including urticaria).  

Itching in the groin and intimate area can be eliminated by:

  • Compliance with the rules of hygiene.
  • Wearing comfortable natural fabric underwear.
  • Exceptions to the use of care products that can cause allergies
  • Limitations of spicy foods in the diet.

Itching in children

Itchy skin is a common childhood problem. Its reasons may be:

  • Insect bites – itching in this case is localized at the site of the bite.
  • Allergies (atopic dermatitis, urticaria, diaper dermatitis) are expressed as spots, peeling, itching and redness of the skin after contact with an allergen. 
  • Eczema – a chronic skin disease in which the folds of the joints, face, neck are affected. 
  • Psoriasis is a disease in which overly actively formed cells of the epidermis form a thick pink layer of islets with a scaly surface on the skin. 
  • Fungal skin lesions (including on the head) are usually red spots with clear boundaries, inside which the hair falls out or becomes thinner and breaks off.
  • Infectious diseases (measles, rubella, chickenpox, scarlet fever) are accompanied by a rash and itching.   
  • Parasites (scabies mites, lice). The scabies mite makes moves in the skin, and therefore makes the child want to scratch. Lice live in the scalp, itching occurs after their bite.
  • Gneiss (seborrheic eczema) is a disease of the scalp in which yellow crusts form on the skin.

Treatment depends on the cause of the itching: symptomatic therapy is indicated for infectious diseases, antihistamines are used to eliminate allergies, ringworm is cured with antifungal agents, etc.

A common cause of itching in the anal area and in children is enterobiasis (pinworm infection). Small thin worms, crawling out at night to lay eggs in the folds of the skin, cause an intolerable urge to scratch. If hygiene is poorly maintained, a baby can become infected again by swallowing eggs with food. Pinworms are often visible to the naked eye in a child’s stool, but sometimes a swab of the skin around the anus is required. Treatment of enterobiasis with antihelminthic drugs should be carried out by all family members, regardless of whether they have manifestations of the disease. In addition to taking medication, you must observe hygiene – cut your nails short, wash your hands thoroughly, iron bed and underwear with a hot iron.  

Itching in girls can also be caused by inflammation of the genital mucosa (vaginitis) and fusion of the labia ( synechiae ). These diseases are characterized by:

  • Redness and swelling
  • Odorless itching or with an unpleasant odor
  • Discharge from the genital tract.
  • Difficulty urinating.

With vulvitis, treatment consists of prescribing local and general antibiotics, antifungal agents, anti-inflammatory drugs. It is recommended to treat the genitals with antiseptics, herbal baths. With synechia, hormonal ointments are prescribed, and in an advanced case, the labia are separated surgically.

Itching symptoms

Itching without other symptoms

More often than not, itching is not the only symptom. In some cases, they appear immediately, in others – as the disease progresses. In any case, if itching, even without other symptoms, continues for several days, it is worth consulting a specialist.

The reasons for this type of itching can be as follows:

  • Allergy – sometimes itching becomes its only manifestation. With allergic (atopic) dermatitis, patients complain that the skin itches a lot, even if there are no rashes on it yet or they are mild.
  • Parasitic diseases – scabies, lice (head and pubic).
  • Neuroses, stress, suppressed emotional state ¬ lead to the appearance of psychogenic itching.
  • Mental disorders.
  • Older age – up to half of people over 70 suffer from senile (senile) itching due to dry skin.

Depending on the type of disease, the nature and strength of itching can be different: the discomfort with head lice differs from the desire to scratch due to “chickenpox”.

Itching in the vagina

Itching in the vagina is an unpleasant symptom that accompanies many diseases. It can be caused by:

  • Sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Fungal lesions.
  • A common cause of itching in the vagina is gynecological diseases.
  • Worms (pinworms crawling out of the rectum).
  • Neoplasms of the mucous membrane of the genitals.
  • Itching in older women is caused by hormonal changes.
  • Endocrine system diseases (diabetes mellitus)

Sometimes the reason for the unpleasant sensations is extremely simple – in the pursuit of beauty, the fair sex sacrifices their health and wear uncomfortable, but spectacular synthetic underwear that bites into the body. Synthetics are a favorable breeding ground for bacteria, since the skin underneath is not ventilated.

The result of wearing such underwear is that its owners complain of an unpleasant odor, itching in the genital area, discharge – this can be both vaginosis and “thrush” (candidiasis). With candidiasis, itching in the vagina is especially unpleasant, and forces women to start treatment as soon as possible, sometimes even without a doctor’s prescription, but they are in no hurry to change their underwear for natural. This leads to a vicious circle, when the disease repeats again and again, and previously used drugs no longer work.

Itching and burning

Itching and burning can accompany various diseases.

With itching, combined with a burning sensation in the anal area, the cause can be either excessive hygiene or its neglect. Other causes – hemorrhoids, fissures – give additional symptoms in the form of a feeling of a foreign body in the intestine, blood and pain during bowel movements.

A burning sensation and the desire to scratch the skin occurs with a strong allergic reaction, such as urticaria. The appearance of the affected area is similar to that obtained with a nettle burn – hence the name of the disease.

A “burning” sensation and itching occurs with insect bites. A lump usually develops at the site of the bite . 

Genital itching combined with a burning sensation occurs in acute candidiasis in women. Patients complain of unpleasant sensations, cheesy discharge from the vagina or penis, burning sensation, especially intensifying after intercourse. Severe itching does not give rest, makes people irritable.

Itching and burning often occur as a reaction of the skin to irritation after shaving, depilation, as well as in diseases of the veins of the lower extremities, while there is swelling of the legs in the evening, varicose nodules under the skin.

Itching and redness

Itching and redness are signs of a severe allergic reaction (hives). With urticaria, blisters and itchy red blisters appear on the skin, similar to a burn of the grass of the same name. What forms of the disease are there?

  • Cold – blisters appear after exposure to cold.
  • Solar – a reaction to direct sunlight.
  • Physical – appears after physical impact (for example, under the elastic of socks).
  • Cholinergic – small, severely itchy lesions. Stress, exercise, hot baths, and food can be the cause.
  • Adrenergic – there is a white rim around the blister. Itching may be absent.

Extremely dangerous for the life form of the disease – a giant hives, or swelling of angioedema. In this case, severe edema of the skin and mucous membranes develops, especially the larynx, which threatens the patient with suffocation. Sometimes exacerbation is accompanied by rashes and itching in the intimate area. Patients with acute Quincke’s edema should be under the supervision of a doctor in a hospital.  

Itching and redness are common symptoms of contact and atopic dermatitis. Therefore, if such symptoms appear and persist, you should immediately contact a specialist to prescribe treatment.

Odor and itching

Odor and itching are classic symptoms of bacterial vaginosis in gynecology. A fishy odor combined with a profuse discharge indicates the growth of harmful bacteria. Violation of the bioflora of the vagina is accompanied by itching in the intimate place, which increases during and after intercourse. Today it is generally accepted that bacterial vaginosis is not an infectious disease – it is simply a deviation from the normal proportion of microorganisms. It is determined by a smear, and the treatment consists in the destruction of pathogenic bacteria (mainly gardnerella ) and the colonization of the vagina with useful lactobacilli.

Itching in men, combined with an unpleasant odor, is also a sign of a bacterial infection, only it “lives” mainly in the folds of the skin on the head of the penis and causes diseases such as balanitis and balanoposthitis . Other causes of discharge, itching, and odor are genital infections (gonorrhea) and fungus (candidiasis).

Odor and itching can appear not only in the intimate area. For example, with kidney failure, a person’s skin can smell of urine, and itchy skin is also characteristic of this disease. With liver failure, liver odor and itchy skin may occur.

Odor and itching can also occur with bacterial damage to the wound on the skin.

Causes of itching

The presence of diseases:

Itching in the intimate area

Itching in an intimate place is a “scourge” for many adults, but not everyone will talk about this uncomfortable problem at a doctor’s appointment. Why does genital itching occur?

  • Lack of hygiene.
  • Uncomfortable, tight synthetic underwear.
  • Endocrine system diseases.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Fungal diseases.
  • Vaginal dysbiosis (bacterial vaginosis) in women.
  • Scabies.
  • Pubic lice.
  • Inflammation of the foreskin and glans of the penis in men.

Often, genital itching is the only symptom by which the presence of a disease can be suspected.

Itchy skin

The most common causes of itchy skin are:

  • Dermatological diseases – psoriasis, eczema.
  • Allergies, especially hives, which cause itching and redness in the form of blisters.
  • Infectious diseases (chickenpox, scarlet fever, rubella, herpes, etc.).
  • Parasites (scabies, lice, helminths).
  • Fungal skin lesions.
  • Diseases of other internal organs and systems (diabetes mellitus, diseases of the thyroid gland and adrenal glands, diseases of the liver and gallbladder, renal failure, blood diseases, mental and neurological diseases).

Itching in the anus

There are several reasons for itching in the anal area:

  • Hemorrhoids and anal fissures.
  • Weakness of the closing sphincter (typical for the elderly). Due to the leakage of feces, an unpleasant odor appears, itching around the anus.
  • Parasitic infections are mainly enterobiasis. The worms exiting the rectum to lay eggs cause discomfort, odorless burning and itching.
  • Diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, accompanied by diarrhea. In this case, frequent bowel movements are accompanied by irritation in the perianal region and odorless itching.

Itching in other conditions

Why does itching occur with common diseases?

When the circulation of bile is disturbed, the amount of bile acids in the blood increases, which are toxic to the receptors located in the skin. As a result, the patient’s skin itches.

Another cause of itching is diabetes mellitus, in which blood circulation and tissue nutrition are impaired. Microtrauma appears on the skin and mucous membranes, and through them the body becomes infected with fungi and bacteria.

Multiple sclerosis causes itching due to the fact that the sheath of the nerve is disturbed, and with it the conduction of impulses. 

Itchy skin occurs with lymphogranulomatosis – an oncological disease that affects the lymph nodes. The disease contributes to the increased production of histamine, and histamine causes the urge to itch. The cause of itching in some other cancers is the squeezing of nerves or parts of the brain by the tumor.

Itching from insect bites

Itching and redness, induration and swelling are typical symptoms of an insect bite reaction. Why does the bite site itch?

  • Bees, together with their sting, release poison that can kill their enemies in the wild, and in humans it only causes itching and inflammation of the surrounding tissues.
  • Mosquitoes, biting a person, inject histamine, which slows down the blood flow at the site of the bite, dilates the capillaries, thinns the blood and “helps” the mosquitoes to get their portion of food with less effort. It is histamine that causes itching.
  • Itching after a tick bite occurs when the tick releases saliva containing histamine. It can also indicate the development of borreliosis.

Treatment of itching after an insect bite is mainly local and is aimed at eliminating symptoms: antihistamine ointments and gels (Fenistil-gel), cooling agents (for example, menovazin), disinfectants for treating combs. 

Stress and itching

Itchy skin is often associated with stress. Why? Excitement, tension and anxiety produce substances in the brain that cause dilation of blood vessels, edema and an increase in the amount of histamine in the blood. Skin receptors react to an increase in the level of histamine, which causes an allergic reaction accompanied by itching.

Another reason for itching is a decrease in the secretion of adrenal cortex hormones, which have antiallergic effect. That is why the skin swells more, itches and turns red.

Skin contact with irritating substances

Itching and burning of the skin can be caused by irritating substances that have got on it:

  • Harmful toxic substances that can cause chemical burns – aggressive acids, alkaline solutions, poisons. These chemicals are life-threatening, and therefore it is necessary to clear the skin of them as soon as possible.
  • Harmless substances that are an allergen for a specific person. Treatment of itching in this case should be carried out with antihistamines, and it is best to try to limit contact with the allergen from the very beginning.

Skin trauma

Itchy skin occurs when the skin is damaged. Damage can be caused by:

  • Friction causing calluses and abrasions.
  • Burn.
  • Mechanical injury caused by small and sharp objects.
  • Cosmetic procedures (shaving).

Itching manifests itself especially vividly during wound healing, when there is a rapid growth of new nerve endings, and they, in turn, are actively irritated by a large amount of histamine secreted by the body.

Lack of regular hygiene

The banal cause of itching, and especially itching in the intimate area, is the lack of regular hygiene. What is the risk of non-compliance with the “code of cleanliness”? Natural secretions, traces of urine and feces irritate the skin and provide a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. Neglect of hygiene in women (untimely change of tampons, abuse of panty liners) is also fraught with the rapid multiplication of pathogenic microbes. Itching in the intimate area is facilitated by wearing tight, uncomfortable underwear made of synthetic materials – in addition to the fact that it presses and disrupts blood flow, synthetics do not allow the body to “breathe” and forms moist, unventilated places in the genital area.

Itching during wound healing

Severe itching is a sign of wound healing. Why do they itch? The fact is that in place of damaged tissues other cells and vessels begin to form, new nerve endings appear, and the epidermis grows. In addition, healing in the last stage – the stage of regeneration – is always accompanied by the release of histamine, which tends to irritate the nerve endings. It turns out that itching in a healing wound is the norm, and you just need to be patient for a while, avoiding injury and scratching the scar.

Itching with allergies

Itching with allergies occurs when the amount of histamine increases in the skin or on the mucous membrane, and it irritates the nerve endings in it. As a result, a person experiences discomfort and an obsessive desire to scratch. Therefore, the treatment of itching with allergies consists in the appointment of antihistamines that suppress the action of histamine, as well as the termination of contact with the allergen.

Diagnosis for itching

Diagnosis of diseases due to which itching appeared depends on its location.

For skin manifestations, you should consult a therapist and dermatologist. The first one excludes or confirms the presence of common diseases, the second one assesses the condition of the skin. If necessary, the patient is referred to an oncologist and hematologist (when there is a suspicion of lymphogranulomatosis or skin cancer). Diagnostics consists of the following steps:

  • Visual examination of the body and lymph nodes. If an enlarged lymph node is found, a biopsy from it.
  • General blood analysis.
  • Biochemical blood test, blood glucose determination.
  • General urine analysis.
  • If foci and suspicious elements are found on the skin, dermatoscopy , scrapings.
  • Ultrasound of the abdominal organs,

If patients complain of itching in the anus, consultation and examination by a proctologist are needed. The survey includes:

  • Visual inspection.
  • Finger examination
  • Sigmoidoscopy – examination of the rectum and part of the large intestine using a rectoscope.
  • Colonoscopy – endoscopic examination of the large intestine.
  • Analysis of feces for eggs, worms and protozoa.
  • Stool analysis, which determines the quality of food digestion ( coprogram ).
  • Ultrasound of the abdominal organs.

When patients are worried about an unpleasant odor, itching in the genital area, pain during urination, this is a reason to contact a gynecologist (women) or urologist (men). An examination plan for itching in an intimate place includes:

  • Visual inspection of the genitals.
  • Microflora smear and culture with determination of sensitivity to antibacterial drugs.
  • Swab for abnormal cells.
  • General blood analysis.
  • Blood biochemistry, determination of glucose levels.
  • PCR diagnostics of genital infections.
  • Blood test for HIV and hepatitis.
  • General urine analysis.
  • If a woman is worried about itching in the vagina, a colposcopy will be useful .

Itching treatment

Treatment of itching in the intimate area

Itching in the groin and intimate area is a consequence of the underlying disease, which means that it is necessary to cure it. In women, its causes are usually inflammatory, fungal and infectious diseases, allergies, hormonal changes. In men – genital infections, fungus, allergies. To diagnose the disease that caused itching, the doctor prescribes studies and tests, according to the results of which the method of treatment is determined:

  • For genital infections – antibiotics and antimicrobial agents.
  • With a fungal infection – antifungal drugs.
  • For allergies – antihistamines, hormonal agents.
  • If the cause of itching is hormonal age-related changes in women, agents containing estriol are prescribed.

Itching in the groin can be unbearable and cause a lot of discomfort to the patient. To get rid of it, appoint:

  • Baths with potassium permanganate, decoctions of calendula, string and chamomile.
  • Antihistamines for local action and for oral administration.
  • Sedatives.

However, you should not choose the treatment yourself. Itching is not a disease, but a symptom indicating a particular disease. Therefore, treatment should be directed at the cause of the itching – the disease that caused it. Symptomatic treatment that does not eliminate the cause can only harm, complicating or slowing down the diagnosis and, as a result, the appointment of treatment.

Itchy skin treatment

Itchy skin can be treated by treating its cause. To do this, you need to go through consultations and examinations with several doctors: a dermatologist, an allergist, a therapist, an endocrinologist. In order for the doctor to see a reliable picture of the disease, drugs must not be used before the start of the examinations.

If the patient feels severe discomfort, treatment is prescribed to eliminate the symptoms:

  • Cooling compresses, showers or baths can effectively relieve itching and burning.
  • Local remedies with a slight anesthetic effect based on menthol and camphor, soothing and cooling the skin.
  • Sedatives.
  • Antihistamines.

At the same time, overheating, exposure to direct sunlight, physical activity must be excluded.

Treatment of itching in the anus

Various diseases can cause itching in the anus. Therefore, it can be eliminated only by curing the corresponding disease:

  • Helminthic invasion.
  • Diseases of the rectum – cracks, hemorrhoids, fistulas. 
  • Skin diseases – eczema, psoriasis, fungal infections, lichen, scabies.
  • Diseases of the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Allergies.
  • Endocrine Disorders.

The banal reason for itching in the anus – non-observance of hygiene rules, wearing uncomfortable underwear – is easily eliminated: it is enough to take a shower every day, use wet wipes after using the toilet, give preference to natural fabrics and comfortable styles in choosing underwear.

Itching caused by rectal diseases is treated with conservative suppository therapy (for example, Relief ) and venotonic drugs (for example, Detralex). In the absence of effect and a severe stage of the disease, surgical treatment is used.  

If the cause of itching is a fungal infection of the skin, ointments that are active against the fungus will help. For dermatitis, salicylic and zinc-containing ointments, coolants with an analgesic effect are prescribed, hormonal drugs ( glucocorticosteroids ) are sometimes used .

For itching in the anus caused by pinworms, special means ( Vermox , Pirantel , etc.) will help . To prevent re-infection, you must carefully follow the rules of personal hygiene, change, wash and iron underwear and bedding daily.  

When itching occurs due to endocrine disorders, gastrointestinal diseases, you should focus on their treatment, because the elimination of symptoms in this case brings only a temporary effect.

Itching prevention

Itching is a manifestation of some kind of disease, and not an independent disease. Therefore, its prevention is to prevent the causes of itching. For this you need:

  • Timely treat diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, liver, endocrine disorders.
  • Identify and treat infectious and fungal skin diseases.
  • To prevent parasitic infections, you should observe hygiene, wash your hands thoroughly, eat only well washed vegetables, fruits and herbs, heat-treated meat and fish.
  • Undergo regular medical examinations of a neurologist, oncologist, therapist in order to identify neurological and general diseases, tumors in time.
  • If severe itching is caused by an allergy, you should avoid contact with the allergen, follow a diet, organize a hypoallergenic life.
  • Itching in the intimate area is a sign of genital infections and inflammatory diseases. To avoid them, you need to observe personal hygiene, have a reliable sexual partner, dress for the season, and avoid hypothermia.
  • Itching caused by stress will help prevent a calm, measured lifestyle, sound and healthy sleep, and taking special sedatives.
  • A balanced, healthy diet is good for the skin. It is imperative to include vegetables, herbs, lean meat and fish in the diet, and drink plenty of water.
  • Almost any type of face and body skin needs moisturizing with cosmetics. To avoid itching, you should use balms, milk, cream – this is especially important after water procedures.
  • To replenish the deficiency of vitamins and microelements, it is useful to use special vitamin and mineral complexes. Products containing vitamins A and E will help improve skin condition.

Itching is a kind of signal from the body. Like pain, it indicates trouble in a certain area: 

  • Skin – for general and psychiatric diseases, dermatological diseases, endocrine disorders, allergies.
  • Anal itching – for rectal diseases, helminthic lesions. 
  • Itching in the intimate area in women – for problems in the field of gynecology. Itching in men – on diseases of andrology / urology.

Itching in the groin, on the skin, in the perianal region is treated in completely different ways. The choice of the appropriate therapy depends on the underlying disorder causing the urge to scratch.

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