Itching, referred to medically as pruritus, is an irritation on the skin that prompts a desire to scratch the affected area. Itching can be localized to a specific portion of the body or it can occur all over the body. In some cases this itchy sensation will be accompanied by hives or lesions and may become worse at night. Generalized itching can be more difficult to treat as it can be more difficult to narrow down the cause of your discomfort. In some cases you may need to consult a dermatologist to get specialized assistance narrowing down the cause of your trouble.
Causes of Itching All Over the Body
In most cases, a condition on the skin itself can lead to an uncomfortable itching sensation all over the body. Evaluating the stimulants that could be irritating your skin can help you eliminate your itching.
Common Causes of Itching All Over the Body
One of the most common causes of itchy skin all over the body is dry skin, which can be brought on by a number of conditions.
- Allergies- An allergy to a specific material can cause the body to develop an itching sensation. Nickel, perfume or chemical allergies among others can cause this type of reaction. Allergic reactions may be accompanied by hives or rash.
- Skin Conditions- Skin conditions such as eczema or sunburn can cause the body to become itchy all over as the body reacts to the condition. Stress or anxiety may stimulate such conditions, leading to itching that is not localized to a particular area.
- Infections- Bacterial or fungal infections on the skin can cause itching to occur. This is your body's natural defense attempting to rid your body of the damaging material.
- Systemic Conditions and Diseases- Liver or kidney disease, blood diseases, cancer or hyperthyroidism can contribute to your itchy skin. These conditions can cause the skin to lose valuable nutrients or store excessive amounts of waste that will cause them to dry out or die prematurely.
- Parasites and Insects- Insects such as lice living on the skin can cause itching and discomfort. Bites from insects such as mosquitoes can also cause the skin to become itchy as your body reacts to the venom in the bite.
- Pregnancy and Menopause- Pregnancy and menopause cause a rapid hormone change that can cause the blood flow and cell production to change. This can lead to itching all over the body as the skin reacts to these changes.
Causes of Itching All Over the Body at Night
Some conditions that irritate the skin may become worse at night or disrupt the sleep cycle.
- Hot Shower- Taking an excessively hot shower right before you go to bed can dry the skin out, causing discomfort. This can also cause the skin to become scalded, leading to discomfort all over the body.
- Allergies to Specific Fabrics- If you are allergic to the fabric used to make your pajamas, sheets or mattress you can experience severe itching while you try to sleep. Additionally, you may experience itching all over your body if you are allergic to the detergents that are used to clean these fabrics.
- Inflammation of Skin- Psoriasis can cause the skin to flare up at night, particularly as it comes into contact with rough fabrics. This can frequently lead to itching that will wake you up at night.
- Dehydration during Menopause- During menopause the body begins to hold and manage fluids differently. If you do not take in a sufficient amount of liquid to manage this condition you can dry out your skin, leading to itching all over.
- Cirrhosis of the Liver- Cirrhosis causes byproducts of the bile to travel through to the skin. This can result in itching throughout the body that frequently becomes more persistent at night.
Causes of Itching all Over the Body during Pregnancy
The rapid hormone and body changes that accompany pregnancy can frequently lead to itching all over the body.
- Skin Stretching- As the skin stretches to accommodate the growing fetus is can become itchy and uncomfortable.
- Hormone Imbalance- Hormones will flux rapidly throughout your pregnancy. As these hormones alter it can cause nerves and stimulants in your body to become hyper activated, leading to itchiness.
- Pre-existing Skin Conditions- If you suffered from psoriasis, eczema or allergies before you became pregnant, these conditions can become more severe during your pregnancy.
- PUPPP- Pruitic urticarial papules and plaques or PUPPP can cause pustules or red bumps on the skin. This is most common during the third trimester.
- Intrahepatic Cholestasis- This condition can interrupt the transfer of bile to the liver, causing salt to build up in the digestive juices. This can cause itching throughout the body.
Home Care for Itching all Over the Body
- Avoid scratching at the areas that are itchy to prevent causing further damage to the skin. Keep your fingernails short so you cannot accidentally cut yourself.
- Wearing lotions or moisturizers can help with some of your discomfort. Take a lukewarm bath and rinse your skin thoroughly before applying these products. This ensures that the pores will be open, increasing the effectiveness of the lotion. Applying a cold compress or taking an oatmeal bath can also help alleviate itching.
- Work to stay active throughout the day so you will be too tired to wake up due to itchiness. Wear loose clothing and work to keep your clothing and skin dry to avoid irritation. Use soft, comfortable bedding that will not worsen your condition.
- If your condition persists, try using over the counter antihistamines or hydrocortisone to lessen your discomfort.
When to See a Doctor
If your itching appears with no ready explanation and does not cease or if your itching is very severe or appears alongside other symptoms that you cannot explain you should contact your doctor right away. Look closely at the skin to see if you can notice any dryness, stings, bites, rashes, hives or other irritation that might explain your condition. If your itching keeps reoccurring then make sure you inform your doctor so further testing can be performed.