Itching All Over

Was this helpful?
(17)

What is itching all over?

Itching all over (pruritis) is an annoying sensation often caused by skin irritation or inflammation. Itching all over may be associated with a rash or other skin symptoms, or it may occur by itself.

Itching all over can be caused by a relatively mild condition, such as dry skin and a build-up of dead skin cells. For example, if you feel itchy all over and you live in a dry climate, you may have “winter itch” caused by the lack of moisture in your skin.

In some cases, itching all over can be due to a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction that includes hives (raised welts) and anaphylaxis (tightening and closing of the airways). Itching all over can also result from infection, inflammation, insect bites, and diseases, such as celiac disease, liver disease, and some cancers.

Itching all over accompanied by difficulty breathing and swelling of the tongue, lips, mouth or face may be due to a life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have any of these symptoms.

Seek prompt medical care if you do not have symptoms of anaphylaxis but your itching is not improving or interferes with your daily life.

What other symptoms might occur with itching all over?

Itching all over may occur by itself or with other symptoms. Symptoms vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. For example, you may have flu-like symptoms if itching all over is caused by infection or inflammation. Anxiety and irritability may be caused by constant itching all over.

Skin symptoms that may occur along with itching all over

Itching all over may occur with other skin-related symptoms including:

  • Bleeding (from broken skin)

  • Blistering

  • Burning

  • Change in skin texture

  • Cracked skin

  • Dry skin

  • Flaking or scaling of the skin

  • Pain

  • Rash and possibly oozing of discharge from the rash or surrounding skin

  • Redness, irritation or inflammation

  • Swelling or puffiness around irritated skin

Other symptoms that may occur along with itching all over

Itching all over may occur with symptoms related to other body systems including:

Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition

In some cases, itching all over may occur with other symptoms that might indicate a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting . Seek immediate medical care (c all 911) if you, or someone you are with, have any of these symptoms:

What causes itching all over?

Many different diseases, disorders and conditions can lead to mild to severe itching. Itching all over can be a sign of dry skin or irritation from clothing or detergent. Itching all over can also be caused by a viral infection, scabies, or an allergic reaction to a medication. In some cases, itching all over can be due to a life-threatening allergic reaction associated with difficulty breathing called anaphylaxis. Itching all over can also be a sign of other serious diseases, including liver disease, leukemia and lymphoma.

Infectious causes of itching all over

Itching all over may be caused by infectious diseases, such as:

Allergic causes of itching all over

Itching all over can be caused by an allergic reaction including:

Autoimmune and inflammatory causes of itching all over

Itching all over can be caused by autoimmune and inflammatory disorders including:

  • Celiac disease
  • Psoriasis
  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus

Parasite or insect bites causes of itching all over

Itching all over can be due to insects and parasites that bite the skin or burrow in the skin including:

  • Bedbugs
  • Body lice
  • Multiple mosquito bites
  • Scabies

Other causes of itching all over

Itching all over can also be caused by other conditions including:

  • Anxiety or stress
  • Dry air or dry climates resulting in dry skin
  • Hormonal changes
  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Methamphetamine abuse and other drug abuse
  • Pregnancy
  • Stress

Life-threatening causes of itching all over

In some cases, itching all over may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition including:

What are the potential complications of itching all over?

In some cases, an itching all over can lead to complications, especially if there is severe itching and scratching that leads to breakdown of the skin. Scratching can introduce bacteria or fungus in the layers of skin, resulting in infections.  Complications include:

  • Bacterial or fungal infection of the skin
  • Cellulitis (an infection of the skin and surrounding tissues caused by a growing bacterial or fungal infection)
  • Open sores and lesions
  • Permanent change in skin texture, scarring
  • Permanent skin discoloration
  • Complications of underlying causes of itching all over can also occur. You can reduce the risk of complications of itching all over and its underlying causes by following the treatment plan you and your health care provider develop specifically for you.
Was this helpful?
(17)
Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Dec 3
  1. Eczema. National Eczema Association. https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/
  2. Allergic Diseases Resource Center. World Allergy Association. http://www.worldallergy.org/adrc/
  3. About Psoriasis. National Psoriasis Foundation. https://www.psoriasis.org/about-psoriasis
  4. Eczema and Atopic Dermatitis. FamilyDoctor.org from the American Academy of Family Physicians. https://familydoctor.org/condition/eczema-and-atopic-dermatitis/
Explore Skin, Hair and Nails
Recommended Reading
Health Spotlight
Next Up
  • The right creams and skin care products can help your skin glow, but nourishment from the inside out is just as important. Consider these nine foods to help keep your skin looking youthful and radiant.
  • No matter the time of year, it's best to protect your skin by following these strategies.
  • Redness, itching, pain, rashes and pus are all signs you need to see a dermatologist. These 10 conditions also merit a visit to the dermatologist.
Answers to Your Health Questions
Trending Videos