Scratch That Itch: Skin Conditions That Cause Itching

When you (not the cat) can’t stop scratching, here’s what your skin may be trying to tell you.


Cold temps outdoors, dry heat blasting indoors, and too little sunlight all can aggravate skin conditions. But what exactly is the problem when your skin or scalp feels itchy or scaly? Is that dusting on your favorite sweater dandruff or something more serious? Use our handy sympt-o-meter to help you find out.

Key symptom: Red, itchy patches
Best fix: Ointment, antihistamines

Eczema, marked by swollen, red skin, tends to itch a lot—and it shows up twice as often in women. (Thirty million Americans have it.) The patches, which have many triggers including winters dry air, can pop up anywhere but usually appear on your arms or behind your knees.

Eczema may also flare near your neck hairline and earlobe creases. Its often seen in people with asthma, allergies, or pet sensitivities, says Kelly Cordoro, MD, an assistant professor of dermatology at the University of California, San Francisco. Antihistamines and steroid ointments can ease the itch.

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Last Updated: October 20, 2009

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