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Girl scratching her arm.

Girl scratching her arm.
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Itchy skin

2-minute read

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: September 2017

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Itch - myDr.com.au

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

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Itch - myDr.com.au

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

Read more on myDr website

Allergic contact dermatitis (ACD) - ACD

Dermatitis is a very common itchy red skin rash with a variety of types and causes (some types are also called eczema). Allergic contact dermatitis

Read more on Australasian College of Dermatologists website

Jock itch (tinea cruris) - myDr.com.au

An itchy rash in the groin area could be jock itch. Find out the causes, symptoms and treatment, plus self-help tips for this fungal infection.

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Urticaria (hives) - myDr.com.au

Urticaria, which is also known as hives, is an itchy rash or skin eruption that usually only lasts from 24 to 48 hours.

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Cutaneous larva migrans - ACD

Cutaneous larva migrans is an itchy localised skin infestation caused by the penetration and migration of animal hookworm larvae through the skin.

Read more on Australasian College of Dermatologists 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

Skin Rashes | myVMC

A rash is defined as a change in the skin's appearance, which may involve alternations in texture (eg rough or smooth) and/or its colour. The skin may also become itchy, warmer, dry, cracked, blistered, lumpy or painful.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Scabies

Human scabies is caused by an infestation of the skin by the human itch mite (Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis).

Read more on WA Health website

Scabies - myDr.com.au

Scabies is a condition caused by tiny mites that burrow under the skin and cause intense itching and sometimes a rash.

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