Pruritus, also known as general itching, is characterized by uncontrollable and extreme itching of the skin resulting due to an uncomfortable or unpleasant sensation in any part of the skin area that triggers the desire to scratch. The itching may be restricted to a particular part or it may be generalized.
Symptoms of Pruritus:
Here are some common symptoms of pruritus.
- Dry skin: Dry skin can be both a cause and a symptom of pruritus
- Small bumps appear on the skin surface
- Skin tears/ cracked skin: The intense itching, if turns habitual, the persistent scratching of the parts can lead to skin tear.
- Change in the skin: The itching may be associated with red and irritated skin or scaly or leathery skin texture.
- Insomnia: Severe itching can disturb sleep causing insomnia.
- Itching is sometimes associated with the burning, prickling, tingling, and crawling sensation.
- The skin may get swelled.
- The symptoms turn worse at night
- It may present with papules or tiny blisters.
Itching can be categorized into the following grades:
Grade 1: Itches a little and does not interfere with the activity.
Grade 2: Itches more and, sometimes, interferes with the activity.
Grade 3: Itches a lot, and it’s difficult to remain still and concentrate.
Grade 4: Itches most terribly, and it becomes impossible to sit still and concentrate
Pruritus is classified as follows.
1) Pruritoceptive: Originating in the skin
2) Neuropathic: Resulting from peripheral nerve damage
3) Neurogenic: Due to centrally acting mediators
4) Psychogenic: Predominantly, a psychological basis
Classification of Pruritus (based on the underlying disease):
Based on the etiology of pruritus, it’s classified into different categories:
The risk of Pruritus is high in individuals who are obese, who take certain medications for their underlying illness, who are constantly exposed to chemicals, and who are having various medical conditions.
Category I: Skin/Dermatological diseases
Eczema/Atopic dermatitis, Psoriasis, Lichen planus, Rosacea, Fungal infection, and Scabies
Category II: Systemic health conditions, including diseases, pregnancy, and drug-induced causes.
- Systemic diseases: They include diseases such as liver disorders or liver obstruction, renal/kidney failure, thyroid disorders, autoimmune conditions, cholestatic liver diseases, and some type of cancer like lymphoma.
- Pregnancy: Pregnant females (due to hormonal changes leading to itching), and commonly women between the ages of 45 and 55 entering the menopausal transition may experience pruritus.
- Drug-induced: Reactions to drugs such as antibiotics, antifungals, narcotics, aspirin, hormones (estrogens, testosterone, or oral contraceptives), and opioids (morphine or cocaine) may cause pruritus directly or by increasing sensitivity to UV light.
Category III: Neurological pruritus
It results due to neuronal and glial damage and diseases of the brain, spinal cord, cranial or spinal nerve roots, and peripheral nerves. It includes diseases such as post-herpetic neuralgia (Shingles), Diabetes mellitus, Burns, and keloids.
Multiple sclerosis can also lead to skin itching, but it is not due to inflammation of the skin. It is a manifestation of the demyelination of nerves.
The characteristic of itchiness due to multiple sclerosis: The itching starts and stops abruptly, itching may be present on the same location on both sides of the body, and it may last for a few seconds to minutes. There prevail no rashes or bumps in the itchy area. A combination of abnormal sensations, such as tingling and burning, may occur and may get triggered by specific circumstances.
Category IV: Psychiatric or psychosomatic illnesses
Acute and chronic stress leading to delusional disorders, depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorders.
Category V: Overlapping and mixed
Category VI: Undetermined origins
Anaphylactic reactions can cause widespread rashes and itching. Allergic reactions, blood transfusions, insect bites, hot steamy showers, acute dehydration, body lotion containing fragrances, and or other irritating chemicals, new cologne, aftershave, or body spray, new laundry detergent or fabric softener, sunless tanning products, and cleaning products can trigger the itching.
Sub-types of Pruritus:
1) Pruritus liver disease: Cholestatic liver disease which leads to deposition of bile salts in the skin leads to itching. Also, viral infections of the liver can lead to itching.
2) Pruritus ani also called as pruritus anusitis:
It is itching around the anus due to recurrent diarrhea, piles, fungal infections, diabetes, tight synthetic clothes which trap the moisture.
3) Pruritus vulvae:
It is itching of the vulva due to yeast infection that worsens from the use of some perfumed sanitary pads, use of lubricants, and tampons.
4) Pruritus scroti: Scrotal itching
In homeopathy, by considering the underlying cause of the itching, whether it is due to allergic reactions, systemic diseases, hormonal related, or psychological factors, the medicines are decided which help to alleviate the itching from the root. Also, whether it is of acute origin or chronic is considered, while developing the homeopathic treatment for the particular patient. So, homeopathy works very well and provides long-term relief. The beauty of Homeopathy is homeopathic medicines are not habit-forming as compared to antihistamines or steroids. Also, homeopathic remedies are completely safe and do not cause side effects.
The list of commonly indicated homeopathic medicines is Sulfur, Dolichos, Urticaria urens, Apis mellifica, Graphitis, etc. The remedies differ from person to person and are selected by an experienced Homeopath after thoroughly going through the case history of the patient.
18 Helpful Tips for Coping with Pruritus:
Here are some helpful tips for treating pruritus.
1) Take short cool showers and limit the shower time, as taking shower for a long time can make your skin drier, which can worsen your itching.
2) Avoid hot baths as heat can make itching turn worse.
2) Humidify your home.
3) Avoid wool, detergents, and topical liniments.
4) Apply mild moisturizer cream immediately after shower which helps to trap much-needed moisturizer in the skin.
5) Do not scratch, instead use a moisturizer immediately. Gently apply moisturizer whenever you feel like scratching.
6) Identify triggers, keep an eye on the triggers. Each person with pruritus has different triggers or things that worsen pruritus.
7) Avoid spicy food
9) Use petroleum jelly
10) For pruritus ani, wipe cleanly after a bowel movement
11) Avoid cosmetics that make the skin turn dry.
12) Use aloe vera gel, mild creams, and lotions which will help to cool the skin.
13) Itch-relieving products containing menthol and camphor.
14) Citrus fruits and juices, seafood, liquors, spicy food, dairy products, and nuts may lead to itching, so keep an eye on whether it causes itching to avoid or limit the intake of such foods.
15) Preserved foods and artificial colors in foods can lead to itching so avoid such foods.
16) Avoid tight clothing; wear comfortable cotton clothes as much as possible.
17) Maintain a healthy weight and sugar levels.
18) And, last but not least, take care of your mental health.
So, if you happen to suffer from pruritus anytime, follow these self-care tips and count on homeopathy for relief.