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What Are the Causes of Unexplained Itchiness?

By Meshell Powell
Updated Jan 27, 2024
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Unexplained itchiness is a relatively common problem with many potential causes. Some of the most common reasons for the condition include allergic reactions, undiagnosed skin conditions, and the effects of certain medications. Hormone changes, especially during pregnancy and menopause, are known to cause itching in some people, as is dry skin. More serious health conditions such as kidney failure or certain forms of cancer may also cause itching. Any persistent problems with itchiness should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.

Allergic reactions to medications, foods, or environmental substances may lead to unexplained itchiness. Many times, the itching is the only symptom present and usually indicates the presence of a mild allergy. If the itching is accompanied by a rash, swelling of the lips or throat, or difficulty breathing, emergency medical assistance is vital. This combination of symptoms could indicate a severe and potentially life-threatening type of allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis.

Some medications may cause mild to moderate itching. Morphine is particularly well known for having this side effect. Some antibiotics as well as narcotic pain relievers list itching among the possible side effects, and this type of itching tends to stop after the medication has been discontinued. If other bothersome side effects occur along with the itching, a doctor should be consulted for further medical evaluation. Hormone changes, especially among women who are pregnant or going through menopause, may lead to unexplained itchiness.

Several skin conditions cause itching. If a skin condition is present but not yet diagnosed, this could be the cause of unexplained itchiness. Dry skin, eczema, and psoriasis are among the most common skin conditions. Most doctors can diagnose skin disorders, but if there are other symptoms, such as an oozing rash or pain, a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of skin conditions, known as a dermatologist, may need to be consulted.

Some serious medical conditions are known for causing unexplained itchiness, although other less serious causes should be explored before assuming this as the cause. Kidney disease or kidney failure frequently causes itching. Liver disease may also be to blame. Certain forms of cancer, especially cancers that affect the blood, commonly cause itching. It is always important to consult a doctor for any itching that does not have a known cause so proper diagnostic tests can be performed and an accurate diagnosis can be obtained.

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Discussion Comments
By anon992044 — On Aug 09, 2015

I am a 65 year old man in good health, but then whenever I drink strong tea I get itching all over my body, which, though not very bothersome was annoying all the same. Somehow , something told me that it could be because of the strong tea. I sensed it myself after several bouts of unexplained itching. I stopped drinking strong tea, and lo and behold, it just disappeared. I substituted my strong tea with coffee, and now I am enjoying life.

By fify — On Aug 17, 2014

I had unexplained itching once. I never did find out the cause but I suspect that it was allergies to mites. I developed hives and severe itching on my legs after sitting on carpet in an apartment that I had just moved to. I hadn't had the carpet cleaned yet. The hives went away with allergy medications. I had the carpet cleaned soon after that and the hives and itching never returned.

By ysmina — On Aug 16, 2014

@donasmrs-- I think that "unexplained itchiness" refers to itching where the cause could not be identified.

There can actually be various causes of itching. Many people think that it only occurs due to allergies but that's not the case. It can be due to allergies, it can be a side effect of a medication, the immune system may cause it or it can even be psychological. I have heard that it's possible to itch because of anxiety or nervousness.

Sometimes the cause can be found easily, other times, the cause may be unknown. It's not always important to know the cause. I mean, if it's temporary and if treatments like lotions and medications work, then it's not necessary to know exactly what caused it. But if it happens all the time, then it's probably an allergic reaction to an allergen and that allergen needs to be identified and avoided as soon as possible.

By donasmrs — On Aug 16, 2014

I'm not a doctor or anything but there can't really be unexplained itchiness right? The cause may not be understood immediately, but there has to be a cause. It can't happen out of nowhere, something has to trigger it. Am I right?

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