THE DOCTORS 101 CHRONIC SYMPTOMS & CONDITIONS #3: ITCHING WITH DRY SKIN

As I have aged, my skin has been more itchy. My allergy practice was loaded with Patients whose ECZEMA and HIVES itched. My favorite uncle developed intolerable itching (pruritis) in his 90’s, and died within a year of metastatic Prostate Cancer.

This gives you an idea of the Range of this annoying sensation. My emphasis here will be on CHRONIC ITCHING with DRY SKIN in otherwise HEALTHY PEOPLE without much rash or other skin condition. If you want extra discussion, look at Reference #1. If you are a Doctor, or a brute for punishment, see Ref.#2, a CME review.

Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and deserves respect right from birth. The skin of your child is wonderfly healthy in looks and self repair. EXCESSIVE SUN EXPOSURE is about the only thing you need to protect her from, and the only penalty is increased cancer risk in later life.

As your body ages, your skin looses some of its essential oils, and and becomes more dry (at least you don’t get acne any more). You become more sensitive to dry air, like in the winter, when the cold outside air (adiabatically) drops in relative humidity when warmed to inside temperature.

Do you notice the increase in static electricity shocks in the winter? If not, I’m sure that you do notice that your skin itches more. one treatment for the “winter itch” is to humidify the inside air. If you have a draughty old house like I do, it may be more convenient to use MOISTURIZING LOTIONS.

These were once mainstays of itch control in my former practice (before development of the effective modern medications). Eucerin and Cetaphil were very helpful. Maybe it is because of the name, but I now find myself using Curel “Itch Defense” all over my body twice daily,.

The itching is much less now, except for my EARS. My ear canals (they are skin too!) have recently been very dry and itchy, maybe because i listen to podcasts when walking or swimming.

Unwilling to give up my podcasts, I put some UNSCENTED Johnson’s baby oil with my little finger into my ear canals, as suggested by my ENT Doctor (I wanted to be sure i didn’t have a diagnosable condition like a fungal infection). If I have a small spot that itches a lot, I use some 1% Hydrocortisone cream, and I feel better.

Antihistamines don’t do much for me, but are effective if the itching is a real allergy (most of what people call allergy is not the IGE-MEDIATED, “real” variety). HISTAMINE is the quintessential provocateur of ITCH. Cetirizine (or atarax) is the strongest of available antihistamines, and diphenhydramine (benadryl) the old standby.

Chronic itching can be caused by a plethora of illnesses, as you will find if you choose to read the following papers.

– Dr. C

Reference #1

Reference #2

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