Itching can affect all of your body or only one area.
Itching may be due to:
- dry skin
- chemicals released by cancer (especially some cancers of the blood)
- medication (such as the painkillers morphine and diamorphine)
- kidney and liver problems
Anything that causes increased blood flow to the skin can make itching worse. This includes alcohol, caffeine, spicy food, hot baths and warm beds. These are common and pleasurable things: Itch can impact hugely on quality of life.
For some cancers, there are medicines that can help control itching.
Or if a drug is causing the itching, your doctor may change this to a different drug or reduce the dose.
Tips for dealing with itchy skin:
- If your skin is dry, use a simple moisturiser such as aqueous cream twice a day. A combination of aqueous cream and menthol can be helpful (dermacool)
- If you store the cream in the fridge, it will feel cool and soothing when applied
- If hot water makes the itching worse, have cool or lukewarm baths or showers
- Try adding an emollient (moisturising solution) such as Oilatum to bath water, and use aqueous cream instead of soap
- A little baking soda added to plain bath water can also help
- After bathing, apply emollients or aqueous cream while your skin is still damp
- Keep your nails clean and short, and rub rather than scratch the itchy area
- Avoid things that may irritate your skin, such as biological washing powders, scented soaps, bubble baths and products containing lanolin
- Keep cool by wearing light, natural fibres such as cotton, and by keeping rooms cool
- Avoid alcoholic drinks and hot, spicy foods
- Use other activities to try to distract you from the itching
- Counselling and relaxation techniques may help
- Sometimes, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) can reduce itching. It can stimulate the nerves reaching the brain, and block out the sensation of itching. TENS treatments are offered at some NHS hospitals