Chronic Itch: Stress, Allergies, or Side Effect? Getting an Accurate Diagnosis and Treatment

Having a chronic itch can be really infuriating. As the itch gets worse, it becomes distracting, keeping you from your work or making it difficult to follow a conversation. If the itching is severe enough, you might have to clip your nails to stubs to prevent scratching open your skin. Chronic itch is a very real problem, not just a minor annoyance, and it should be addressed by your dermatologist.

There are four primary causes of chronic itch: stress, allergies, side effects, and skin conditions.

Stress related itch

The biggest problem with diagnosing stress related itch is that it can’t really be measured or detected. If the patient is under significant emotional, mental, or physical stress on a daily basis, this diagnosis might be determined after all others have been ruled out. The best treatment is reducing your stress level anyway that you can.


There are a lot of different allergies that can cause skin reactions or chronic itching. Most of the allergies that cause itching are those that you come into contact with externally, like soaps, cleansers, and other household products. Some patients have chronic itch with pollen allergies as well. We can perform patch testing to determine if there is an allergy causing your itching. If so, you can usually treat the problem with over-the-counter medications.

Side effects of medications

Every medication you take comes with a laundry list of potential side effects. Even if the medication is considered “fairly safe” or “mostly safe,” that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have potential side effects. Some of the medications most likely to cause itching include:

  • Certain medications for high blood pressure
  • Some gout medications
  • Amiodarone for heart palpitations
  • Diuretics
  • Some cholesterol medications

If you think a medication might be causing your chronic itching, you should see your doctor right away to seek guidance on discontinuing the medication if needed. You may also experience chronic itching in relation to some antibiotics. If this happens, go to your local ER or call for help, as this can be a sign of a serious allergic reaction.

Skin conditions

We treat many skin conditions every day that cause chronic itch. Although most of these conditions are easily seen due to symptoms of redness, scaliness, or rashiness, itching can sometimes be a first early symptom. Through careful examination and testing, we can determine early on if you have a skin condition that will cause a problem beyond itching, and we’ll be able to treat it more effectively.

If you are needing help addressing your chronic itch, contact us today for an appointment.

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