The EclecticPhysician

The Eclectic Physician
Q&A Archive
By Dr. Beth Burch

Itching can have many causes.


For the past few days, I've felt intense itching all over my body. There is no rash, and my skin looks normal. The itching moves rapidly from one location to another: my hands, the back of my ear, my feet, my chest, my leg, etc. It is not relieved by scratching, although that does not prevent me from trying to scratch anyway. I am so uncomfortable! A medical advice nurse told me to take Benedryl. I took one 25mg tablet. The itching lessened but it was still there, only I didn't seem to care as much about it. Today the itching is as bad as ever. What could be causing this intense, random, systemic itching? Are there any herbs that might relieve it? Where should I go from here?


The medical name for itching is pruritus. It can accompany a skin disease or may be a symptom of a systemic disease (sometimes the only symptom). Skin diseases that cause severe itching include contact dermatitis, lichen planus, miliaria, dermatitis herpetiformis, atopic dermatitis, scabies and even dry skin. Usually there are other signs of skin disease including redness and rashes, however generalized itching may have no obvious skin lesions.

Systemic conditions that can cause generalized itching include obstruction of the bile ducts, uremia, hyperparathyroidism, lymphoma, leukemia, polycythemia rubra vera, hyperthyroidism and diabetes. Pruritis can be a side effect of many medications, and is common during pregnancy.

The first step is to identify and treat the cause of the itching. If there is no obvious skin disease, then a systemic disorder should be looked for. A visit to your doctor is in order.

Things that may help while you are looking for the cause include elimination of irritating clothing, minimize bathing as it can aggravate the itching and applying a soothing emollient like an herbal salve.

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* The information presented in this web site is intended to inform and educate. It is not intended replace a qualified medical practitioner to diagnose or treat medical conditions.

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