Skin itches

Skin anatomy

The skin (lat. Cutis) covers the entire body and is therefore considered the largest organ in both anatomy and medicine. The skin can be anatomically divided into three large layers, of which the so-called epidermis (epidermis) forms the extreme. Towards the inside of the body, the epidermis is followed by the dermis (Dermis or Corium) and the subcutis (Subcutis).

In many textbooks, the skin as an organ is only divided into two layers, the cutis (consisting of epidermis and dermis) and the subcutis. The individual skin layers can also be divided into differently structured sub-compartments.
The upper layers of the skin therefore only consist of dead cells that are peeled off by flaking. The subcutis, in turn, contains abundant large blood vessels and nerve fibers that send out small extensions into the upper layers of the skin. In addition, many sensory cells can be found in the lower layer of the skin, which absorb and transmit strong pressure stimuli.
This layer is also responsible for making the skin itchy.

What's behind it?

Itching and burning of the skin can be the result of various causes or diseases. Itching in particular - depending on its intensity - is perceived as a very tormenting symptom that is difficult to ignore or hide.
One possible cause of burning and itching of the skin is the widespread disease neurodermatitis, also known as Atopic dermatitis referred to as. Almost 10-15% of all children develop neurodermatitis, which often disappears again in adulthood. Typical are sensitive, very dry areas of the skin on the flexor side of the joints that itch, burn and pain. Redness, scratch marks and crust formation on the affected areas are typical. However, the itching and burning sensation are limited to the affected skin areas and are not spread over the entire body.
Meadow grass dermatitis is a disease that is not so common, but symptomatically very impressive. This disease occurs mainly in spring and summer in people who have had contact with plants and were then in the sun. The skin reacts phototoxically to different plant extracts in combination in UV-A radiation. About 2 days after exposure to the sun, red blisters, streaky and leaf-shaped reddening appear on the arms and legs in particular - according to the pattern of the plant with which the skin was in contact - and severe itching and painful burning of the skin.
Another disease from the field of photodermatoses, which can also cause itching and burning of the skin, is polymorphic light dermatosis - often also called light allergy. Typically, in the early spring months after the first exposure to the sun, which follows the long winter months, a wide variety of reddish skin changes occur, which can be accompanied by severe itching and burning. These skin changes usually heal after a week if you consistently avoid the sun during this time.
Sunburn (solar dermatitis) is a very common reason for itching and burning of the skin. About 6 to 8 hours after exposure to the sun, extensive, burning and itchy reddening of the skin occurs, which in the case of severe burns can also be accompanied by fever and blistering.
A rather rare cause of itching and burning of the skin is the so-called "Erythema exudativum multiforme". This inflammatory skin disease, the cause of which has not been conclusively clarified, often occurs after a virus infection - especially with herpes viruses - and is characterized by target-shaped, reddish skin appearances. These slowly spread from the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet over the entire body. Itching and burning of the affected skin areas, as well as sometimes fever and general exhaustion are typical symptoms. The disease usually heals on its own after 2 to 3 weeks.
Ultimately, a rather unspecific but common cause of itching and burning of the skin is the allergic reaction. As part of such urticaria, reddish wheals appear all over the body. Various allergens, such as food or fragrances, can be the cause.

More information on this topic: Burning scalp

When does the itchy skin occur?

Skin itches after shaving

Shaving can be extremely stressful, especially for sensitive and dry skin. In addition, sensitive skin areas are often not shaved carefully and carefully out of haste or carelessness and can therefore quickly lead to irritation. Proper care of the skin after shaving is also very important to prevent itching and a painful burning sensation. Impurities and small injuries to the skin caused by shaving can lead to inflammatory processes in the skin, the result of which are symptoms such as itching, pain, burning sensation and redness. But the use of the wrong care and shaving products can also irritate the skin. Shaving foam or aftershave lotions that contain fragrances or preservatives can cause irritation on sensitive skin. If after repeated use of a certain product, for example a shaving foam or body lotion, itching and burning occur, it is advisable to change the product once. Especially those who tend to have dry and sensitive skin should attach importance to the use of gentle products. Otherwise, always ensure that you use fresh razor blades.

Read more on the topic: Skin itches after shaving

Skin itches after sunburn

Sunburn is a common one Photodermatosiswhich occurs mainly in the summer and spring months. Careless and long sunbathing, a lack of sun protection and the aggressive midday sun can quickly lead to sunburns - especially with sensitive skin and light skin types. But artificial sunbathing in solariums also play a major role in the development of sunburn. This is an acute inflammatory reaction of the skin that shows its maximum severity around 12 to 24 hours after exposure to the sun. Typically, redness, itching and burning pain occur on the affected skin areas. With more severe burns, general symptoms such as fever and nausea can occur. In this case, blistering of the skin can also occur. The symptoms usually subside within a week and are perceived as very distressing by those affected, especially in the first few days. Cooling and moist compresses, as well as lotions, gels or creams with betamethasone are suitable for relieving itching and pain. In the case of severe sunburn, anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving drugs such as diclofenac and ibuprofen are also used. Severe sunburns in particular should be treated by a doctor, as they can be life-threatening if they are large.

Read more on the topic: Skin itches after sunburn

Skin itches after showering

Many people complain of itching immediately after showering, which is sometimes accompanied by a usually slight burning of the skin. In some people it only affects specific skin areas, in others it even affects the entire skin. Usually the cause of such itching after showering is dry skin. Frequent hot showers in particular tend to dry the skin and show symptoms of irritation. As a result, some people experience short-lived itching after showering. The use of aggressive shower gels and soaps can also contribute to this. Especially people with sensitive skin should use gentle, pH-neutral products. These can be found both in the drugstore and in the pharmacy. Moisturizing products, such as those often available for atopic dermatitis patients, can also help relieve itching. After showering, the skin should be patted dry as much as possible and not rubbed, as this also puts mechanical stress on the skin. Moisturizing creams and moisturizing body lotions also help to care for the skin and make it more resilient. Apart from dryness, however, intolerance can also be the cause of the burning and itching. Today, many shower gels are scented and contain ingredients that can irritate the skin. The easiest way to find out if you can't tolerate a product is to switch or try to skip a product.

Read more information: Skin itches after showering

Skin itches in bed

Increased itching in bed, which can sometimes be accompanied by a burning sensation, is possibly an expression of a house dust or mite allergy. Typical accompanying symptoms are runny nose, cough, burning and watery eyes and asthma. An allergy test can provide certainty if a house dust allergy is suspected. Other causes of itching and burning in bed are textile intolerance or neurodermatitis. The latter in particular is aggravated by the warmth of the bed. This lowers the itching threshold and intensifies the symptoms. Therefore, atopic dermatitis sufferers should avoid heat build-up and value non-scratchy textiles. A common and often overlooked cause of itching and burning sensations in bed is to shower in the evening. People with dry skin are prone to itching after a hot shower. To avoid this, it is advisable to care for the skin with moisturizing creams and to use gentle shower gels.

Read more on the topic: Mites in bed - this helps best

Skin itches in the evening

Evening itching and burning of the skin can have many causes. In principle, all underlying diseases are conceivable that lead to itchy and burning skin anyway (see above). But why does some people's skin itch, especially in the evening? One possible explanation is the evening shower. People with sensitive skin are prone to skin irritation after a hot shower. Apparently caring products such as body lotions, which many people apply in the evening, can also be the cause. They are often scented and some people do not tolerate them well.

Itchy skin during pregnancy

Pregnancy is a state of emergency for the woman's body. It is something completely natural and yet a rare occurrence for the organism.

During pregnancy, women are exposed to a special physical situation.
There is a hormonal shift for the woman. The level of estrogen and progesterone increases sharply, especially in early pregnancy.

The skin over the abdomen becomes increasingly stretched during pregnancy. There is usually weight gain in other parts of the body and the resulting stretching of the skin.

Read more on the topic: Skin changes during pregnancy

About 20 percent of pregnant women suffer from general itching, which is precisely due to these causes.

Many women also complain of itchy palms and soles.
The reason for this could be the high level of estrogen. These symptoms are generally physiological and do not require any further therapy.

Those affected can get relief from moisturizing creams and airy clothing. The symptoms usually subside quickly after the birth.

However, in the last trimester of pregnancy, itching can also be pathological. It is a pregnancy cholestasis.
This is an obstacle to the flow of bile acid from the liver to the small intestine. The causes can be hormonal, but a predisposition is also conceivable. There is severe itching.

In addition, nausea, loss of appetite and jaundice can occur.
The jaundice (Jaundice) is caused by the breakdown products deposited in the skin, which could not be metabolized because of the biliary congestion.
There is a risk of premature birth (in 20-60% of affected women).

The therapy of choice is the administration of ursodeoxycholic acid, as this relieves the itching. Obviously, the drug can also lower the risk of miscarriages.

After the birth, the symptoms usually subside without any further consequences.

Read more on the topic: Ursodeoxycholic acid

Itchy skin with a rash

The rash can have various reasons.

Skin rashes, also known as rashes, are very common and can have many different causes. Their appearance can also be different.

Characteristically, red, brownish or white spots form on the skin. Larger areas of skin can be affected.

Exanthemas are particularly common on elbows and bends, fingers (rash on fingers), hands (see also rash on hands), feet, forearms, legs, in the groin and genital region, and on the chest. Swelling and blisters may form.

The most prominent accompanying symptom of a rash is itching, which is often characterized by burning or warming of the affected skin areas.

If the itching is very severe and painful, you should consult a doctor immediately.

The causes of the itchy rash can vary widely. Usually, rashes represent viral and bacterial infections, inflammatory and non-inflammatory skin conditions, allergies, and drug side effects.

Possible causes of an itchy rash are, for example, an infection with herpes simplex viruses, Pfeiffer's glandular fever or hepatitis.

Itchy rashes can also occur as a drug-dependent side effect. Drugs that cause such a rash are primarily antibiotics, diuretics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, cortisone preparations, and anti-epileptics.

Read more about the topic here: Itching when taking amoxicillin.

Another cause of itchy rashes is allergens.

Chronic skin diseases such as psoriasis (psoriasis) and nodular lichen (Lichen planus) are accompanied by severe itching. Also a parasitic skin disease (for example the scabies) leads to very itchy skin.

Other causes of itchy rashes are fungal infections of all kinds, chronic inflammatory diseases and viral infections.

The therapy here is very different, as the causes are diverse and the course of the disease can often be atypical.

Good skin care is recommended for prophylaxis. It should be noted in which situation the rash first appeared; this can facilitate diagnosis.

Itching and red spots

Red blotchy skin lesions are also known as Macules designated. By definition, they are not above the skin level. Colloquially, however, red skin spots are often also skin changes that are slightly raised above the skin level. This can be wheals, for example, which are often the expression of an allergic reaction.
The causes of red spots can be very diverse. A very common cause accompanied by itching and a burning sensation are allergic reactions. Typical allergens are, for example, food, fragrances, plant components, animal hair and many more. In stressful situations, some people get red spots, especially on the cleavage and neck, which are accompanied by a kind of burning and itchy feeling. The sensation of itching and burning is sometimes very different from one individual to the next, so that many people find it difficult to differentiate between burning and itching. A rash that initially appears as blotchy and reddish is herpes zoster - also known as shingles. Typically, the skin is affected in segments, especially on the chest and back, and burns heavily. Itching is rare, but it can also occur. Over the course of time, the red spots change and turn into bubbles. Accompanying symptoms such as fever and general fatigue are typical. Another cause of an itchy and burning rash with red spots is a fungal infection of the skin. Typically, the red spots are lighter in the center than on the outside and flake off as they progress.

Read more: Skin is itchy and red spots

On which part of the body does the skin itch occur?

Itching of the anus

Itching of the anus is not only uncomfortable for most people, but also extremely embarrassing. A very common infection is usually hidden behind it: Oxyuriasis (Enterobiosis). This worm infection caused by the pinworm is the most common worm disease in Europe. About 50% of people worldwide will get oxyuriasis at least once in their life. Strong itching of the anus at night, which can also be accompanied by a burning sensation, is typical. Abdominal pain can also occur. The disease is to be regarded as harmless and can be brought under control with medication that kill the worms and hygiene measures. However, the risk of infection is particularly high within a shared apartment or family, since the worm is transmitted through smear infections. Another quite common cause of anus itching and burning is hemorrhoidal disease. It is also very often accompanied by light bleeding, which is mainly caused by mechanical stress - toilet paper or tight underwear. Slimy discharge and oozing are also very common. Contrary to popular belief, hemorrhoids tend to hurt less often. In the advanced stage, a foreign body sensation may occur. Other causes of burning and itching in the anus can be underlying diseases such as neurodermatitis, diabetes mellitus or a fungal infection.

Read more on the topic:

  • Anus itch
  • itching at night

Skin itches everywhere and all the time

Itchy skin can be very uncomfortable, especially if the itchiness extends over the entire skin and lasts for a long time.
This situation represents a high level of suffering and leads to stress for those affected.

The result can be insomnia and restlessness.
It is therefore necessary to provide those affected with relief from their symptoms as quickly as possible.
Itching has many sides, there is not just one type and one cause.

Possible causes

  • Allergies
    Constant, widespread itching must be clearly differentiated from locally delimited skin symptoms such as itchy eczema.
    Constant itching that occurs everywhere is less common than local complaints. Often sensitive areas such as the elbows (rash on the elbows), palms of the hands, the genital area, the face and the scalp are affected.
  • If itching occurs over a large area, it can be a pronounced allergic reaction.
    The triggering allergens can be, for example, textiles or personal care products such as shower gels that are applied over a large area.
    If the itching occurs mainly after wearing certain items of clothing, consuming certain foods or showering, you should inform your doctor so that an allergy test can be carried out if necessary.
  • Dry skin - xeroderma
    In general, however, constant itching is caused by very dry skin. Particularly mature skin, which loses its elasticity and resilience with age, tends to dry out quickly. Environmental factors such as allergens, parasites, UV radiation and mechanical stress also intensify the drying out of the skin. Especially in old age, the skin is no longer able to produce sufficient sebum and fats and thus protect itself from drying out.
    But lifestyle can also worsen the condition. Alcohol, smoking, insufficient hydration, frequent sunbathing and poor / excessive personal hygiene also dry out the skin.
    But hormonal changes in age also increase this effect. Due to its lack of elasticity, the skin is covered with micro-cracks, which makes it more prone to irritation. According to today's ideas, free nerve endings in the skin are responsible for this itching.
    They are stimulated, for example, by certain tissue hormones. Cold, warmth or, for example, mechanical irritation such as scratching can make the itchy stimulus more pleasant or transform it into another more bearable pain perception, which is why patients also feel the need to scratch themselves sometimes even bloody.

Skin itches for no reason

It is particularly frustrating when there are complaints but no cause in sight. This can be perceived as very agonizing, especially when itching. The reason is often not directly visible - for example in the form of dry skin or an intolerance - but it is still there. But what if there is no physical reason? The skin is often referred to as the mirror of the soul and there is a lot of truth in this saying. Unresolved psychological conflicts, stress and strain can be reflected in the most bizarre skin reactions. In this way, abnormal sensations such as burning or itching can partly be attributed to psychological causes.

  • pregnancy
    Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause generalized itching.
    This can be harmless and pass after a certain time. However, since it is also an expression of an internal illness or a complication (for example a disease of the bile), this should always be clarified by a doctor quickly.
  • Internal diseases
    Internal illnesses can manifest themselves as extensive itching. These diseases are mainly kidney and liver problems.
    Patients with severe renal insufficiency who need dialysis in particular suffer from itching. Dialysis can have a soothing effect. Liver diseases and diseases of the bile, for example with accompanying jaundice (Jaundice), often lead to a generalized excruciating itching.
    The itching is often one of the early symptoms of such diseases.
    Jaundice as a result of biliary congestion is often accompanied by itching, but this can also occur without jaundice, for example with viral hepatitis. Systemic diseases such as HIV, hepatitis but also diabetes mellitus can manifest themselves in itching.
  • Cancers
    An accompanying symptom of malignant cancers can sometimes be generalized itching. Such types of cancer are, for example, Hodgkin's lymphoma (lymph gland cancer) and chronic lymphatic leukemia.
    As a result of these diseases, so-called erythroderma, a reddening of the entire skin with excruciating itching, often occurs. Other types of cancer can also cause itching.
  • psyche
    Generalized itching that occurs constantly does not always have to have an organic cause. Very often it is the psyche that determines this. Mental states and circumstances are very often expressed in the well-being of our skin.
    A lot of stress and worry can result in itchy skin. Hypochondria can also be a factor causing the feeling of constant itching.
    But also manifested mental illnesses such as anorexia, i.e. anorexia, (due to deficiency symptoms and psychological instability) or schizophrenic delusions lead to this.
    Schizophrenia can manifest itself in a variety of delusions, some of which can be tactile.
    This means that they affect the sense of touch. For example, those affected report vermin on or under their skin that cause excruciating itching. This is called "Vermin madness“.

Skin itches without a rash

Itchy and burning skin with no signs of a rash can occur with atopic dermatitis. In some people, atopic dermatitis only manifests itself as dry areas of the skin, which are not always noticeable as a rash. Another possible cause, albeit a rarer one, is an organ dysfunction. Both liver and kidney dysfunction can lead to the production of metabolic products that lead to itching. A real skin burning sensation is not to be expected in this case. By far the most common cause of itchy and burning skin without a rash is dry skin. Many people suffer from dehydration of the skin, especially in the winter months.

Therapy for itchy skin

Almost everyone finds it extremely uncomfortable when the skin itches. Of course, in the case of long-term problems, the cause should first be clarified and, if possible, eliminated. But as this search for the cause takes a long time in many cases, affected patients can find relief with a few aids.
Since the skin is often damaged by prolonged stress and then reacts particularly sensitively to other stimuli, it can help to carry out targeted relaxation exercises. In addition, the skin is covered with a natural protective acid layer, which makes it particularly resistant and hard-wearing.

Frequent showering should be avoided in general and especially by people with skin problems (skin itches, etc.), as this rinses off the protective acid layer. If you do not want to do without the daily shower, you can remedy this with special moisturizing shower gels and creams. (See also: Skin itches after showering)

Since itching is often triggered by inflammatory processes that are accompanied by the development of heat, those affected can experience relief by targeted cooling of the itchy skin areas. Both ice cubes and cool compresses work wonders. For dry skin or flaky skin, it is advisable to apply special oily care lotions and / or creams.
These cause the dead skin to be softened and detached from the healthy skin. They also strengthen the skin's natural protective layer and relieve itching symptoms.
Many sufferers report that using soaps and fragrances makes the problem worse and makes the skin itch more itchy. However, this should not force those affected to give up perfumes entirely. It is advisable for these people in particular to not spray perfumes directly on the skin, but rather on their hair or clothing. In addition, certain ingredients that promote itching should be avoided.

The relevant substances for itching therapy include tea tree oil, chamomile and arnica. People suffering from itching should also keep an eye on the materials used when choosing clothing. Fabrics such as wool and various synthetic fibers, in many cases, significantly exacerbate the problem and should therefore be avoided if possible. The most important, best and at the same time the most difficult remedy for itchy skin is and remains the omission of any scratch attempts. In order to keep yourself from sparing the already irritated areas of the skin, it is advisable to cut your fingernails as short as possible and (if at all) just run your fingertips very lightly over the itchy areas.

You might also be interested in: Light therapy for psoriasis

Therapy for permanent itching all over the body

Therapy depends on the underlying causes.
The excruciating itching can be treated with soothing ointments, which provide moisture and active ingredients such as local anesthetics (Painkiller) and anti-inflammatory drugs (anti-inflammatory drug) contain.
These have a pain relieving and anti-inflammatory effect.

In all cases, however, an attempt should be made to eliminate the cause.
In the case of chronically dry skin, it is advisable to often apply oily creams to the skin in order to protect it better.
Internal and systemic diseases require a far more comprehensive therapy that is specifically geared to their causes.
In the case of psychological causes, relaxation techniques and stress reduction can help a lot.

However, manifest psychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia cannot be brought under control without psychotropic drugs. This is where the delusions have to end.

Itchy skin and rash when stressed

Several studies now show significant relationships between the human psyche and the Condition of the skin.
Stress can trigger an excessive immune reaction in the body and thus existing skin diseases, such as neurodermatitis, psoriasis (psoriasis) and worsen, if not cause, rashes.
The skin itches, the person concerned sleeps poorly and thus suffers from constant restlessness, which in turn causes even more stress. But how exactly does stress cause such a skin reaction?
The body reacts to stress with a complicated defense reaction. Initially, the hormones noradrenaline and adrenaline poured out. These are also known as "Stress hormones“.
They increase blood pressure and pulse and put the body in a generally very alert state.
In addition, stress triggers one Immune reaction from which cells of our body's own defense system migrate from the blood into the tissue and skin in order to render pathogens harmless.

Since these reactions shouldn't last forever, the hormone comes now Cortisol for use.
It is supposed to curb the inflammation that is triggered by the immune reaction. So it has an immunosuppressive effect.
However, if there is an imbalance here, it may not be enough Cortisol is released, and the immune reaction shoots over the target.

The inflammation persists and makes the skin more susceptible to neurodermatitis, psoriasis and rashes and therefore for the itching.

Above all, stressful and traumatic life events in early childhood can unbalance this defense system and thus promote stress-related itching.
However, there is also another approach to the development of psychosomatic itching. This approach is called the neuropeptide-neurotrophin axis.
It has been proven that under long-term stress, the protein "Substance P" out Neurons is distributed.

This "Substance P“Stimulates so-called mast cells to empty their content, the histamine, into the tissue. Mast cells are a component of our immune system.
histamine acts in the formation of Allergies and allergic reactions and causes severe itching as well as skin swelling and reddening.

Possible therapeutic approaches can be medicinal or the learning of relaxation techniques.

Function of the skin

As already mentioned, the skin is considered to be the largest and most versatile organ in the human body in terms of functionality.

It serves primarily that mechanical, chemical and thermal protection the tissue underneath it (so-called enveloping organ). In addition, the skin is one of the most important messengers between the inside of the body and the environment, so it fulfills important tasks in the field of communication. Also as part of the Immune system The skin is indispensable, it is the first for many germs and pathogens barrier which must be overcome in order to infect an organism.
This in turn means that the skin is already fighting off a large part of the possible infections in a particularly effective way. An intact skin is the prerequisite for an ideally functioning body, defects in the area of ​​this protective jacket are not only perceived as particularly annoying but can also have an unfavorable effect on many processes inside the body.

Figure skin

Figure Structure of the hairless skin (inguinal skin) - three-dimensional scheme

a - epidermis (1st - 3rd) - epidermis
b - dermis (4th - 5th) - Dermis
c - subcutaneous tissue (6.) - Tela subcutanea

  1. Horny layer - Stratum corneum
  2. Cornifying layer
    (light layer
    and granular layer) -
    Stratum lucidum and
    Stratum granulosum
  3. Germ layer (prickly cell layer
    and base layer) -
    Stratum spinosum and
    Stratum basale
  4. Papillary layer -
    Stratum papillary
  5. Network layer - Stratum reticularre
  6. Subcutaneous tissue - Tela subcutanea
  7. Lymph vessel - Vas lymphaticum
  8. Artery - Artery
  9. Cutaneous nerve - Cutaneous nerve
  10. Duct of a sweat gland -
    Ductus sudorifer
  11. Papillae of the dermis -
    Papillae (dermidis)
  12. Vascular network of the dermis -
    Subpapillary venous plexus

You can find an overview of all Dr-Gumpert images at: medical illustrations