If you're feeling itchy, a rash can help you ID what's going on. Red bumps? Likely, mosquito bites. An oozy flush of red? Poison ivy or oak. But itching without a rash? That can sometimes pose a more challenging road to diagnosis, since the reasons for chronic pruritus (aka itching in derm-speak) are vast and complex, says Meghan Feely, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist in New Jersey and New York City who serves as a clinical instructor at Mount Sinai's Department of Dermatology.
The root of your itching could range from pure-and-simple dry skin to various health conditions. To find out why you're itching without a rash, we rounded up common culprits with expert advice—including how to make the itch stop.
1. You have dry skin.
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"The number one reason why people itch is simply dry skin," says Alix J. Charles, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology. Also known as xerosis, dry skin can worsen (and start to flake, scale, and itch) due to peeling sunburn, dry climates, a drop in humidity, overuse of soap (which sucks out your skin's natural oils), chlorine in pools, prolonged exposure to water in general, and aging (as your skin becomes thinner).
Yep, pretty much anything can cause dry skin, so think about what you've been up to. Stopping the itch starts with, well, reducing your exposure to whatever's pulling moisture from your skin. The, you can soothe the skin with a moisturizing lotion, like this one from CeraVe.
2. Bug bites could be the culprit.
Common offenders like mosquitos often come with easy-to-ID itchy red bumps. But other bug bites aren't so visible to the human eye, says Dr. Charles. Lice, fleas, bed bugs, and scabies may cause relentless itching without a rash, especially early on. Case in point: Tell-tale bed bug bites become slightly swollen and red, but may not pop up for two weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Antiseptic creams or lotions and over-the-counter antihistamines like Benadryl can help dull your itch, but it's always best to know what's going on first (read: Call the doc!).
3. It could be a side effect of certain medications.
Certain medications can trigger itching without rash as a side effect or due to funky interactions with other medications you're taking, says Dr. Charles. For example, prescription pain relievers like opioids, some blood pressure medications, and certain cancer medications can cause itchy skin, research shows.
4. Your mental health has taken a dive.
Nearly a third of skin conditions are impacted by your mental health, including itchy skin, per a study published last year. Even more: Dermatologists often see more rashless itching in patients who are dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression, says Dr. Charles.
5. Hormonal fluctuations could be to blame.
"Any time your body changes and fluctuates hormonally, it could affect the skin, making it drier or more sensitive," says Dr. Charles. In particular, falling estrogen levels during menopause can thin and dry out your skin, resulting in itching without a rash. To ease your itch, avoid harsh soaps and moisturize regularly, per the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).
6. You're pregnant.
Sometimes, itchy skin can arise during pregnancy thanks to your ever-stretching belly (bet you can guess the fix: moisturize!). But severe itching without rash is also the main indicator of intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP), the most common liver condition pregnant moms encounter, per the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).
Typically, itching begins during your third trimester, in the palms of your hands and soles of your feet, but it can also spread up through your torso. As ICP can come with health risks, contact your doc for the proper diagnosis and treatment, which may include itch-relief meds like ursodiol.
7. It could be the result of an underlying health condition.
While rare, itching without a rash can signal problems with your nervous system, says Dr. Charles. Numerous conditions including stroke, diabetes, and shingles can cause itchy skin without a rash in sight. "Problems with the liver or kidneys will cause an accumulation of certain toxins in the system which can then cause itching, too," he says.
And while far less common than dry skin and bug bites, itchy skin without a rash can sometimes be a sign of certain types of cancer (just note that this is very rare). For example, a sore, scar, or mole that's itchy, changing in appearance, or just won't heal could be basal or squamous cell skin cancer, per the American Cancer Society.
Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the blood cells, may also cause itching without rash, along with swollen lymph nodes (you know, those bumps under your neck, armpit, or groin), fever, night sweats, and unexpected weight loss.
When to see a doctor about your itching
If you can't figure out the source of your itching without a rash or at-home remedies aren't cutting it, don't try to tackle the problem alone. Itching can be mysterious and a lot more complicated than you might think, says Dr. Charles.
If you aren't quite sure what's going on, head to your doc for a full work-up to see if a prescription is needed and to make sure a more serious condition isn't to blame.
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Doctors Explain Why You Have Unbearably Itchy Skin With No Rash in Sight, Source:https://www.prevention.com/health/a29391979/itching-without-rash/