Itchy Skin and Underlying Medical Conditions

Itchy Skin and Underlying Medical Conditions | Dr. Ali Ghahary

Itchy skin can often be blamed on one thing: Dry skin – and while this is something that is much more common in the colder seasons (i.e. winter and fall), other people can be prone to dry skin and experience it year-round. Regardless, it’s always recommended that you use a moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated – even if it’s on the oiler side – as well as exfoliate and cleanse your skin regularly to keep it as healthy as possible. There are also other skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis, that are associated with dry skin, and you may also develop some other symptoms such as scaling, flakiness, and redness/inflammation. If it is suspected that you might have either of these conditions, your doctor will possibly refer you to a skin specialist known as a dermatologist so that you can get proper treatment. In many cases these particular conditions are easily managed with topical ointments and, in some cases, oral medications – though it depends on the severity.

There are also underlying medical conditions that cause itchy skin, and they are as follows:

Anemia

When you have anemia (or are anemic), this means that your body has an abnormally low amount of red blood cells. These red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body, so when there isn’t enough this can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, chest pain, dizziness or feeling lightheaded, cold hands and/or feet, headache, pale or yellowish skin, and, in some cases, even itchy skin.

When itchy skin occurs as a result of being anemic, you could have what’s known as aplastic anemia, which is a condition that is considered rare though serious. It occurs when your bone marrow cannot produce enough new blood cells, resulting in small red or purple rash-like spots known as petechiae which can be raised or flat, appearing on places like the neck, arms and legs. You can either develop aplastic anemia, or you can inherit it (i.e. if your mother has the same condition.) Aplastic anemia is more commonly seen in teens and adults and is also more common in Asian countries.

Hypothyroidism

If you have chronically itchy skin, it could be an indicator that something is wrong with your thyroid. Hypothyroidism, kin particular. When your thyroid isn’t producing enough hormone, you have a slowed metabolism which can cause a reduction in sweating as well as cause a change in the texture and appearance of your skin – and it may become more dry, flaky, and itchy as a result. Other symptoms associated with hypothyroidism include fatigue, weight gain, sensitivity to cold, muscle aches and weakness, joint swelling, pain or stiffness, thinning hair, high cholesterol, a heavier or irregular period, slowed heart rate, and even depression.

Hypothyroidism can be detected through a simple blood test, and if it is determined that you do, in fact, have hypothyroidism, then you will need to go on a medication.

Kidney Failure

Among the most common causes of kidney failure are high blood pressure and diabetes. Some of the first signs/symptoms associated with kidney disease, leading to kidney failure, include things like decreased urine output, fluid retention and swelling of the limbs, and even shortness of breath. Itchy skin is another symptom often associated with kidney failure, as when the kidneys are not functioning as they should, this results in a build-up of waste in your blood and excessive accumulation of phosphorus, which also contributes to itchy skin.