Itchy skin can be caused by a number of conditions. Many times, the itching accompanies a rash — like with poison ivy or an allergic reaction to food or new soap, for example — but what does it mean if you have itchy skin with no rash?
Here are five of the most common causes of itchy skin with no rash:
#1: Dry Skin
If you have dry, itchy skin it could be the result of the cold winter weather or a symptom of a more serious skin condition such as eczema. Eczema, or dermatitis, is very common and characterized by inflammation of the skin. Symptoms can range from mild itching to severe blistering and even cracked bleeding skin.
The best treatment depends on the severity of your eczema, but using a mild soap, bathing in lukewarm water and applying a quality moisturizer at least once a day and immediately after bathing generally helps.
Itchy skin during pregnancy is also very common. In fact, almost 20% of pregnant women report itchy skin. Typically, skin itches most around the abdomen and breasts as it expands. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can also lead to dry, itchy skin, and for women with eczema, symptoms sometimes worsen.
Moisturizing regularly and taking warm oatmeal baths will help to relieve the itchiness. Keeping your lotions in the fridge also helps to cool your skin and relieve itching. If you are pregnant and have an itchy rash or severe itching on your palms or the soles of your feet, make an appointment with your doctor because it could be something more serious.
#3: Iron Deficiency/Anemia
Iron deficiency is very common in the U.S. — especially among women — and can be diagnosed with a simple blood test.
Sometimes an iron deficiency can cause severely itchy and red skin. The good news is that increasing your iron intake will often make the itchiness go away. Other signs that you might not be getting enough iron in your diet are exhaustion, heavy menstrual periods, paleness, shortness of breath, restless leg syndrome, hair loss, and headaches.
#4: Thyroid Disease
If you have an underactive thyroid, you may also experience itching with no rash. Patients with hypothyroidism sometimes experience dry skin, which can also contribute to itchiness, and skin can also take on a “scaly” appearance.
If you experience itchiness combined with unexplained weight loss or weight gain, cold or heat intolerance, heart palpitations or muscle weakness, tell your doctor so that you can rule out thyroid disease.
Not only can itchy skin cause stress, anxiety and stress can also cause itchiness!
“Feelings of high stress or anxiety can aggravate underlying skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis and actually make them worse,” says Dr. Helm.
Stress has a negative effect on your body and can present in many different ways. Sometimes, it can trigger itching or, more commonly, it can make any itching you already have related to an underlying medical condition more intense. Stress and anxiety can even lead to the development of hives and heat rash in some cases.
If stress is causing your itchiness to intensify, calm down by taking slow, deep breaths. When you lower your stress level, it should also alleviate your symptoms. In the meantime, avoid scratching, which causes more irritation.
Could itchy skin be a symptom of cancer?
In some rare cases, itchy skin with no rash could be a sign of another serious medical condition such as kidney disease, liver disease, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, celiac disease, nerve disorders like restless leg syndrome and even some cancers.
The blood cancer polycythemia vera often causes itchiness, especially after a warm bath or hot shower, but the itchy skin is just one symptom. Other symptoms of polycythemia vera include trouble breathing when lying down, headaches, fatigue, and dizziness.
Scaly skin and a red rash may be early signs of some forms of leukemia and cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. The condition typically begins as a rash that lasts for months and even years followed by bumps and lesions on the skin that eventually form tumors.
Some patients with pancreatic cancer also experience itching if the tumor blocks the bile duct and causes jaundice. The chemicals in the bile sometimes leak into the skin, causing it to itch.
Most of the time, itchy skin is harmless and temporary and can be effectively treated with moisturizers, prescription strength creams, and simple lifestyle changes. But if your itching is severe or accompanied by other symptoms such as fever or weight loss, make an appointment with your doctor.
Looking to Visit a Dermatologist?
Do you have persistent itchy skin that isn’t responding to simple treatments? Contact U.S. Dermatology Partners today. We have multiple locations throughout the country, so fill out our simple online form to get in touch with us. One of our local team members will reach out to you shortly to answer your questions or schedule an appointment for you to visit us soon.
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