Why We Itch
Why We Itch
Daniel Behroozan (Dermatologist) gives expert video advice on: What are the most common causes of itching?; Can stress cause itching?; Why does poison ivy cause itching? and more...
What are the most common causes of itching?
Common causes of itching in a patient are very broad actually. There are a lot of things that can make you itch. Generally speaking something as simple as dry skin can make you itch, an underlying skin problem like eczema or atopic dermatitis can make you itch. There are a variety of skin problems that can make you itch. A viral infection can make you itch; a bacterial infection can make you itch. Taking a medication, whether prescribed or an herbal medication, or even an over the counter medication can make you itch. So it's not as simple as one may think, that there's one thing that makes you itch and one thing that doesn't make you itch. Some things that one patient may take may never make them itch and the same medication in another patient can lead to an itch response. So every individual is different but there are a variety of different things that can make you itch.
Can stress cause itching?
Stress can absolutely cause itching, and we know there is a very close connection between the nervous system and the skin. And stress can cause itching, depression can cause itching, any kind of psychological trauma can lead to an itch response. But again, different people are different. A death in one person's family can make them itch; but a death in a different person's family can make them cry. So it's a different response in different people and different people behave differently.
Why does poison ivy cause itching?
Poison ivy actually causes itching because it elicits an immune response in your body. So poison ivy, when it comes into contact with your skin, activates your immune system to release mediators such as histamine and other mediators that can cause an itch response.
Why do scalps seem to itch so much?
We have a lot of patients come in complaining of scalp itching and oftentimes we can't find a cause. There are some very common conditions that cause scalp itching such as what's commonly called dandruff but we like to call seborrhoeic dermatitis. It's very common, it's dry, itchy scalps, sometimes flakes, sometimes you find scale on your shirt, especially if you're wearing a black shirt and that's a very common condition that people have that can cause scalp itching. Dry scalps can also cause itching and that's treated similarly to seborrhoeic dermatitis, where the scalps are very commonly itchy.
Is itching sometimes 'all in our heads'?
I have a lot of patients that come in and we can't find a cause for their itching. Unfortunately sometimes that's the case and sometimes there is a psychological aspect to one's itching. Having said that, we usually don't make that diagnosis until we've excluded all other causes of itching, internal & external. And once those are all excluded, we often, even if we think something is psychological, continue to look for medical reasons of itching. But certainly there are many patients that have psychiatric diseases that manifast itself with skin disease such as itching.