Itching All Over
What is itching all over?
Itching all over (pruritis) is an annoying sensation often caused by skin irritation or inflammation. Itching all over may be associated with a rash or other skin symptoms, or it may occur by itself.
Itching all over can be caused by a relatively mild condition, such as dry skin and a build-up of dead skin cells. For example, if you feel itchy all over and you live in a dry climate, you may have “winter itch” caused by the lack of moisture in your skin.
In some cases, itching all over can be due to a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction that includes hives (raised welts) and anaphylaxis (tightening and closing of the airways). Itching all over can also result from infection, inflammation, insect bites, and diseases, such as celiac disease, liver disease, and some cancers.
Itching all over accompanied by difficulty breathing and swelling of the tongue, lips, mouth or face may be due to a life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have any of these symptoms.
Seek prompt medical care if you do not have symptoms of anaphylaxis but your itching is not improving or interferes with your daily life.
What other symptoms might occur with itching all over?
Itching all over may occur by itself or with other symptoms. Symptoms vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. For example, you may have flu-like symptoms if itching all over is caused by infection or inflammation. Anxiety and irritability may be caused by constant itching all over.
Skin symptoms that may occur along with itching all over
Itching all over may occur with other skin-related symptoms including:
Bleeding (from broken skin)
Change in skin texture
Flaking or scaling of the skin
Rash and possibly oozing of discharge from the rash or surrounding skin
Redness, irritation or inflammation
Swelling or puffiness around irritated skin
Other symptoms that may occur along with itching all over
Itching all over may occur with symptoms related to other body systems including:
Ascites, swelling of the abdomen due to fluid buildup
Irritability in infants and children
Red or dry eyes
Stress, anxiety or depression
Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition
In some cases, itching all over may occur with other symptoms that might indicate a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting . Seek immediate medical care (c all 911) if you, or someone you are with, have any of these symptoms:
What causes itching all over?
Many different diseases, disorders and conditions can lead to mild to severe itching. Itching all over can be a sign of dry skin or irritation from clothing or detergent. Itching all over can also be caused by a viral infection, scabies, or an allergic reaction to a medication. In some cases, itching all over can be due to a life-threatening allergic reaction associated with difficulty breathing called anaphylaxis. Itching all over can also be a sign of other serious diseases, including liver disease, leukemia and lymphoma.
Infectious causes of itching all over
Itching all over may be caused by infectious diseases, such as:
Allergic causes of itching all over
Itching all over can be caused by an allergic reaction including:
- Allergic contact dermatitis caused by an allergy to a soap or detergent
- Drug reaction
- Eczema (atopic dermatitis)
- Food allergies
- Irritant contact dermatitis caused by contact with an irritating substance
- Pityriasis rosea (possibly caused by a virus)
- Scabies, an allergic reaction to mite bites
Autoimmune and inflammatory causes of itching all over
Itching all over can be caused by autoimmune and inflammatory disorders including:
Parasite or insect bites causes of itching all over
Itching all over can be due to insects and parasites that bite the skin or burrow in the skin including:
- Body lice
- Multiple mosquito bites
Other causes of itching all over
Itching all over can also be caused by other conditions including:
- Anxiety or stress
- Dry air or dry climates resulting in dry skin
- Hormonal changes
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Methamphetamine abuse and other drug abuse
Life-threatening causes of itching all over
In some cases, itching all over may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition including:
- Allergic reaction with anaphylaxis (tightening and closing of the airways)
- Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Kidney failure
- Liver disease and liver failure
What are the potential complications of itching all over?
In some cases, an itching all over can lead to complications, especially if there is severe itching and scratching that leads to breakdown of the skin. Scratching can introduce bacteria or fungus in the layers of skin, resulting in infections. Complications include:
- Bacterial or fungal infection of the skin
- Cellulitis (an infection of the skin and surrounding tissues caused by a growing bacterial or fungal infection)
- Open sores and lesions
- Permanent change in skin texture, scarring
- Permanent skin discoloration
- Complications of underlying causes of itching all over can also occur. You can reduce the risk of complications of itching all over and its underlying causes by following the treatment plan you and your health care provider develop specifically for you.