13 Irritating Causes of Itchy Skin

We’re all bound to experience an itching sensation at some point in our lives. The exact cause of any given itch can range from serious medical conditions to common ailments virtually everyone experiences.

What Causes Itchy Skin?

While itching is a universal human experience, many people do not know what causes this sensation. Having this information is one of the best ways to manage or even prevent.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common causes of itching… 

13. Allergies

Allergies are incredibly common. Many of the things we become allergic to can create skin rashes and other related problems. Potential allergens can include just about anything you can think, of such as nickel, pets, and certain foods. 

Why Allergies Cause Itchy Skin

Allergies are caused by an immune system reaction to some external object or substance. Essentially, the immune system falsely identifies an otherwise harmless substance as harmful and creates an immune response. This often plays out by creating rashes and itching sensations in the skin. 

Similar to allergies are the itching reactions caused by bug bites… 

12. Bug Bites

No matter where you are in the world, you probably have to deal with at least a few insects. Some of these insects even take to feeding off humans, which can lead to itching sensations. 

Why Bug Bites Cause Itchy Skin

There are a few reasons why bug bites cause itching. The first is that these bites damage the skin, which is enough to cause an itch on its own. The second is that many insects, like mosquitoes, have anticoagulant (blood-thinning) proteins in their saliva that help them to feed on blood. However, these proteins also cause itching in humans. 

Sometimes, our skin doesn’t need any external help to start itching… 

11. Dry Skin

Our skin relies on being sufficiently hydrated to function properly. When our skin dries out, we can start to experience itching sensations. Skin can dry out thanks to a number of causes, including climate, health, and even using a type of soap your skin doesn’t agree with. 

Why Dry Skin Causes Itchy Skin

Dry skin causes itching for a few reasons. For starters, the lack of moisture irritates the nerves responsible for creating the itching sensation. Severely dry skin can also become flaky, damaged, or even infected; all of these things contribute to itching. 

One of the classic causes of itching happens when our skin comes in contact with the wrong kind of plants… 

10. Contact With Certain Plants

We tend to think of plants as lifeforms that don’t react and respond to the outside world, but some plants go as far as to pack powerful self-defense capabilities. 

Why Contact With Certain Plants Causes Itchy Skin

You’ve probably heard of poison ivy before. After all, it’s one of the most common types of plants that can cause itching. Other plants include stinging nettle, poison oak, and poison sumac. All of these plants have defensive chemicals or stinging needles that are designed to protect the plant from hungry predators. In humans, this often means itching! 

A more medically serious cause of itching involves our nerves… 

9. Nerve Damage

Our nerves are the fibers that send information from one part of our body to another. This covers everything from our ability to move to physical sensations. When our nerves become damaged, we can experience itching sensations. 

Why Nerve Damage Causes Itchy Skin

There are a variety of conditions that can damage our nerves and cause itching. These include serious medical conditions like diabetes, physical injuries like a pinched nerve, and infections like shingles (herpes zoster). All of these conditions disrupt normal nerve function and can lead to itching. 

Another source of skin itching comes in the form of fungal infections…

8. Fungi

Fungi are a wide range of lifeforms. They are everywhere, from our favorite pizza toppings (mushrooms) to the largest living land organism (the Armillaria ostoyae, which covers 3.7 square miles). Unfortunately, some fungi aren’t tasty or fun. 

Why Fungi Cause Itchy Skin

Fungal infections aren’t typically serious in humans. Our bodies are just too warm for fungi to take hold. However, the surface of our skin can become an ideal climate for certain types of irritating fungi. Athlete’s foot is one of the most common fungal infections that causes itching sensations. Specifically, as the fungi spreads, it irritates the nerves and damages the skin, which triggers the itching sensation. 

It doesn’t have to be a fungal infection to cause itching sensations, though… 

7. Any Infection

Any infection that lingers around the skin can lead to itching. These infections could be relatively minor or part of more serious medical issues. 

Why Infection Causes Itchy Skin

Infections cause an itchy response for just about every reason you could imagine: they irritate the nerves responsible for the itching sensation, they can damage the skin, and they are usually paired with an immune response.

Itching is also common when there is something wrong with our skin… 

6. Skin Lesions

Skin lesions are any abnormal growth on the surface of our skin when compared to the skin around it. Many of these lesions are normal and pose only aesthetic problems, but a few are signs of serious conditions. Both can cause itching. 

Why Skin Lesions Cause Itchy Skin

Skin lesions disrupt the normal function of the skin in the surrounding area. Namely, they displace the surrounding skin and nerves, which can cause itching. They can also lead to open wounds and infections, which also contribute to itching sensations. 

Another change in our skin that causes itching? When a wound scabs over…. 

5. Scabs

Scabs are caused by red blood cells coagulating over a wound. This is a vital part of the healing process that stops blood loss. Scabs can also be a sure cause of itching, though. 

Why Scabs Cause Itchy Skin

Scabs disrupt the natural elasticity of the skin. They are, in a sense, our body’s natural Band-Aid, and they restrict motion in a similar manner. Once a scab becomes dry and is getting ready to fall off, it starts to itch. It’s important to not give in to this urge to scratch that itch or you could risk reopening the wound. 

Some types of itching are related more to where we live than what happens to us… 

4. Swimmer’s Itch

Swimmer’s itch is a common condition for people spending their time relaxing on the beach. This condition is usually mild and often goes away with household treatments. However, while you have swimmer’s itch, you’ll never forget it! 

Why Swimmer’s Itch Cause Itchy Skin

Swimmer’s itch is a very persistent and annoying type of itching sensation. It affects people who have been swimming or spending time on the shore. It’s caused by a variety of parasites that live in these places. These parasites start their lives in the bodies of aquatic snails and then move on to other hosts like birds, small mammals, and humans.

Sometimes, there doesn’t even need to be a physical cause to an itch…  

3. Mental Health Problems

Our minds and our bodies are directly linked. When the health status of one changes, the other can often be impacted as well. Our bodies can experience itching sensations due to changes in our mental health. 

Why Mental Health Problems Cause Itchy Skin

This psychosomatic itching can be caused by a variety of mental health conditions. Anxiety, for instance, can lead to itching because it dramatically changes our ability to respond to stress, which can cause problems for the skin. Other mental health conditions, such as OCD, can cause behavioral problems that lead to itching as well. 

Clearly, the body is a complicated system. One medical condition that can have far-reaching effects on the body is the following..

2. Pregnancy 

Nothing changes the body quite like pregnancy. While pregnant, it can feel like our entire bodies are changing. Weight, mood, and even things like hairline can change as we progress through a pregnancy. One of the areas where this is most felt is the skin. 

Why Pregnancy Causes Itchy Skin

Pregnancy changes the body’s natural hormone balance and creates amazing demands on the rest of the body’s systems. All of this additional stress can play out in a variety of ways. One of those is the skin. Specifically, some people report increased sensitivity to itching during the course of their pregnancies. 

Much like during pregnancy, our bodies undergo changes as we age… 

1. Age

Age has wide-reaching effects on our overall health. As we advance through our years, our bodies go through many changes. One of those changes happens to our skin. 

Why Age Causes Itchy Skin

Our skin is naturally elastic. That is to say, our skin is stretchy and can bounce back after being pushed, pulled, or otherwise moved around. As we age, our skin has trouble maintaining this elasticity. This couples with other age-related issues, including being more prone to dryness and less resistant to things that can irritate our skin. 

So, what should you do if you are experiencing itchy skin?

Final Thoughts

The good news about itching is that it is usually not that serious. Typically, an itch will go away on its own, but you can use household remedies to help. There are plenty of lotions, salves, and ointments to treat all of the most common itching causes. However, if your itching sensation won’t go away or you have other symptoms, your doctor can help you rule out more serious health issues. 


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