Pruritis is the medical term for itch, the sensation that provokes a desire to scratch. Pruritis can be a symptom of certain skin conditions and diseases, internal diseases, or faulty processing of the itch sensation in the nervous system. Itching can be frustrating and very uncomfortable. When severe, it can lead to loss of sleep, anxiety and depression.

Skin conditions and diseases that cause pruritis

Itching is a prominent symptom of many skin diseases associated with a rash, such as hives, chicken pox, eczema and a number of others.

Some skin conditions may cause itching with no apparent rash. Dry skin, for example, can be very itchy.

Some parasitic infestations of the skin, such as scabies or lice, may also causing itching.

Itching that develops in a mole is one sign of skin cancer. Moles that itch should be examined by a dermatologist to rule out the possibility of malignancy.

Internal diseases associated with pruritis

Kidney failure is the most common example of an internal disease that may cause itching. Others include some types of liver disease including Hepatitis C, thyroid disease, and blood disorders, such as iron deficiency anemia, polycythemia vera or multiple myeloma.

Occasionally, itching may be a component of some lymphomas. Neurological conditions, such as a pinched nerve or stroke, may also lead to itching.


To treat itching, your dermatologist will examine your skin and may conduct blood tests or a skin biopsy to determine the cause of the itch. If itching is caused by a skin disease, treatment of the disease itself generally provides relief. When itching is associated with an internal disease, patients may require oral medications or ultraviolet treatments to relieve the itch.

Self-Care Tips for Itching

  • Avoid hot baths or showers. Bathe in lukewarm or tepid water.
  • Use a mild soap only on odor producing body parts and rinse thoroughly.
  • After bathing, pat skin dry and apply moisturizer immediately.
  • Wear lightweight clothing and keep your environment cool.
  • For conditions with blisters or weeping skin, such as chicken pox or poison ivy, taking a cool oatmeal bath or using calamine lotion may be helpful.

As disruptive and uncomfortable as it is to itch, pruritis generally responds well to treatment. A board certified dermatologist, such as the specialists at Dermatology and Skin Surgery, is most qualified to diagnose the cause of itching and provide effective treatment.