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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).

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2017

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