Why does my whole body itch?

Dr Mark Porter advises a reader whose whole body itches all the time.



Q: Please can you shed any light as to why I have a permanent itch over my whole body. There is nothing to see. I’ve sought medical help and it was suggested that I am stressed and should take a holiday. I tried this but it didn’t work. I have also used various creams, which alleviate the itch but not completely.

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A: We call this generalised pruritus and, in the absence of an obvious skin problem such as eczema or scabies, it requires a bit of detective work to get to the root of the problem, as there are many possible causes.

Stress and anxiety can sometimes trigger it. As can dry skin (a common problem in older people during the winter). Medication is another possible cause, with itching a recognised side effect of opioid painkillers (eg, codeine), statins and some blood-pressure pills (eg, ramipril). Oddly, it can also be triggered by water in some people (aquagenic pruritus).

I also check for underlying issues such as iron deficiency, liver and kidney problems and immune issues (blood tests pick up most of these). Back to your own GP for further investigation, please.


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