What's Making You Itch?: From Penicillin to
Perfume or the Menopause the Causes of That Maddening Tingle
AS IF ANTS
ARE CRAWLING ON YOU
CAUSE: Menopause. Changes in hormone levels can produce an itchy
skin condition called formication.
the phantom sensation of insects crawling on their skin, though
its not clear why. One theory is that fluctuating hormone
levels may affect nerve endings in the skin.
Increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids (found in oily fish)
can help improve skin condition, and if the skin is less dry it
may be less prone to itching, says Dr Tabi Leslie, a dermatologist
at St Thomas and Barnet hospitals in London.
of water to keep the skin hydrated may help reduce irritation, as
can avoiding smoking, excess sun exposure, stress and lack of sleep.
therapy may also help. The condition should settle after the menopause,
says Peter Bowen Simpkins, medical director of the London Womens
AND RED, WEEPY SKIN
CAUSE: Allergy. Often referred to as allergic contact dermatitis,
this occurs when the skin reacts to something touching it.
include nickel jewellery, rubber gloves or a buckle from a belt.
It can also
be caused by irritants such as chemicals in soaps or perfumes.
an immune response in the skin, which triggers the fiery itch.
In severe cases
the skin can become scaly with painful cracks developing on the
fingers, says Dr Andrew Wright, a dermatologist at Bradford Hospitals
a tendency to asthma, eczema and hay fever develop contact dermatitis
more easily than others, possibly due to a compromised immune system,
and this tendency can run in families.
The first step is to identify the cause, says Dr Wright, so
monitor what you use when you get an outbreak. Patch testing may
pieces of sticky tape each containing a small sample of a
potentially allergic substance are applied to the skin for
48 hours and any reaction is then analysed.
regularly as this helps maintain the skins protective barrier
and use hypoallergenic shampoo and soap because this is free from
Sudden rash or mild red patches.
CAUSE: Eczema. One in five people will be affected by eczema
(also known as dermatitis) at some time in their lives.
is caused by an over-reaction of the immune system. Atopic eczema
tends to be hereditary and many sufferers will also have hay fever
and asthma, conditions linked to a compromised or overactive immune
are behind the knees, elbows, side of neck or around the eyes and
ears as these areas become hot and clammy.
affects one in 20 people, and produces a burning itching along with
tiny blisters on the sides of the fingers, palms and feet.
The cause isnt
known, but it can be triggered by perfume, athletes foot or
Keep the skin well moisturised because dry skin is more easily
irritated, says Dr Leslie. Use creams free from chemicals such as
parabens. Hydrocortisone can also be soothing.
A new treatment,
Tacrolimus ointment, is available on prescription for those with
moderate to severe eczema, and helps calm an overactive immune system.
bath can help, too, says GP Dr Paul Griffiths of the Blemish Clinic
in Manchester. Oats contain anti-inflammatory compounds that can
CAUSE: Medication. Some drugs, such as penicillin and other
antibiotics, can cause itchy skin, says Dr Wright.
This is because
the drugs are treated as a foreign chemical in the body and produce
an allergic reaction within hours.
Speak to your doctor about changing your medication.
can be used for penicillin allergy if the drug has to be taken regularly.
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© 2012 Daily