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Girl scratching her arm.

Girl scratching her arm.
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Itchy skin

What is itching?

Itching is a common irritation of the skin that makes a person wants to scratch the itchy area. It can occur anywhere on the body and can be very frustrating and uncomfortable. Itching may occur on a small part of the body for example around the area of an insect bite, or it can affect the whole body such as an allergic reaction.

Sometimes spots or rashes may be present around the area that is itchy or they may cause the itchiness itself.

It's quite common to find that after you’ve scratched an itch that it becomes more persistent (itchier) and you get into a cycle of itching and scratching. This can be painful and can sometimes lead to an infection if the skin is broken.

Itching during pregnancy

Mild itching can be common during pregnancy and is caused by the normal changes which occur in your body when you’re pregnant. However, severe itching can be a sign of obstetric cholestasis, which is a condition affecting pregnant women.

Obstetric cholestasis

This is an uncommon condition which usually occurs in the last four months of pregnancy.

It can cause generalised (all over) itching of the skin, usually without a rash. The whole of the body may be affected, including the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. It usually presents with itching without a rash.

The condition affects the liver, and regular blood tests may be needed to check that the liver is working normally.

Your pharmacist may be able to recommend some products which can help with itchy skin.

Not sure what to do next?

If you are still concerned about your itchy skin, why not use healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

Last reviewed: July 2015

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 34 results

Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy - ACD

Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy is a rare liver condition which causes an itchy skin.

Read more on Australasian College of Dermatologists website

Prurigo nodularis - ACD

Prurigo nodularis is an intensely itchy, abraded (severely scratched-looking) rash characterised by discreet, thickened and leathery nodules or bumps.

Read more on Australasian College of Dermatologists website

Lichen simplex chronicus - ACD

Lichen simplex chronicus is characterised by thickening of the skin due to chronic rubbing or scratching. Exaggerated skin markings termed lichenification are common.

Read more on Australasian College of Dermatologists website

Dermatitis herpetiformis - ACD

Dermatitis herpetiformis is an uncommon itchy skin condition which can occur at any age. It is a specific skin change seen in coeliac disease.

Read more on Australasian College of Dermatologists website

Scabies - Farmer Health | Farmer Health

Scabies (Sarcoptes scabiei) is caused by small mites that burrow into the skin. These mites are too small to see. If you have scabies, the skin becomes very itchy and when you scratch you can spread the eggs to other...

Read more on The National Centre for Farmer Health website

Pregnancy itching: Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques | Parenthub

During her 37th week, Layla was developing an itch that a simple scratch could not possibly suffice. Layla did not know it at the time but she was developing a condition known as Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy (PUPPS).

Read more on Parenthub website

Pruritus with no rash - ACD

Pruritus means itch. Itching is a very common symptom of skin conditions such as eczema, scabies, insect bites and hives. These skin conditions are characterised by the presence of a rash.

Read more on Australasian College of Dermatologists website

Pruritus ani - ACD

The term "pruritus ani" refers to an 'itchy bottom'.This is a common and distressing problem for many people. It occurs most commonly in middle-aged white men.

Read more on Australasian College of Dermatologists website

Itch - myDr.com.au

Itching (medical term pruritus) can be one of the most distressing physical sensations we experience.

Read more on myDr website

Chilblains - myDr.com.au

Chilblains develop over the course of a few hours, and the affected area may be itchy, swollen and reddish-blue in colour.

Read more on myDr website

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