Other Itches: Living With Pruritus

All of us here are familiar with the itchiness having atopic dermatitis brings. For myself, atopic dermatitis is not my only “itchy” diagnosis.

Today I am going to share with you my experience with pruritus and how I manage the symptoms day to day.

What is pruritus?

First of all, I think a bit of clarification and explanation is in order. Pruritus is the name for the sensation of unexplained general and persistent itchiness.1,2

How do I know my itchiness isn't eczema-related?

You probably have questions like, “Well, if you already know you have atopic dermatitis how do you know the itchiness isn’t just your eczema?”

The answer to that question is determined by examining the itchy site. My eczema, in its many forms, is quite dramatic and visible. My general atopic dermatitis flare-ups are localized to a specific area. Pruritus isn’t, since it can happen anywhere. There is no visible flare-up, and the itch can travel. Unlike contact or atopic dermatitis, there is no rash or mark to show where my skin became aggravated.

Now, you may be asking yourself: How do you know you’re not just having normal random itches like other people? The answer to that is the timing and persistence of the itching. Another big indicator is that my pruritus flares up when my other autoimmune symptoms are flaring up.1

How do I trace the origin?

So how do I deal with constant itchiness assault from many fronts? I follow some simple practices that I believe help mitigate some of the discomforts of pruritus.

The first thing that helped was tracing the origin (or at least the suspected origin) of my pruritus symptoms. Unlike eczema, I have not been living with pruritus for a long time.

My symptoms of extreme whole-body itchiness began to develop alongside one of the more serious health conditions I live with called essential mixed cryoglobulinemia (often called “cryo”). Given pruritus can be a symptom of hepatitis C, which can cause cryo, it seemed like a natural “connecting of the dots.”3

Unfortunately, much like my cryoglobulinemia diagnosis, my pruritus is likely not going anywhere unless there are huge advancements in modern medicine. So, much like atopic dermatitis, it’s about managing the day-to-day.

What might be contributing?

I have found hydration is one of the biggest factors in how often I experience pruritus and how severe the experience is. I am terrible at remembering to drink water. So I’ve taken to setting a phone reminder to drink water every other hour.

Stress is also a massive trigger for me. Not only for pruritus but all of my accompanying autoimmune issues. Unfortunately, that means it’s up to me to learn to manage because life stressors aren’t just going to go away.

I have found cognitive behavioral therapy techniques most help with stress/worry-related thoughts. Setting aside an assigned time to think about the things that I am stressing over seems a bit silly, but this has been majorly helpful to me in learning to compartmentalize my stressors. Which, in turn, helps reduce the frequency and severity of my pruritus.

How does it all come back to adaptability?

Ultimately, just like atopic dermatitis and every other annoying health issue I have, I have to take everything one day at a time. Triggers, stressors, and life changes whether I like it or not, and I have to learn to adapt.

Living with itchy skin, whether the cause is atopic dermatitis, pruritus, or something else is something we can all relate to. Learning to manage the juggling act of multiple dermatological conditions is challenging with little reward. With so much of our relief being based on our little daily interventions, it can be exhausting. So, to all my itchy friends out there, whether your itches are from dermatitis or pruritus, I wish you all calm skin and an itch-free day!

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The AtopicDermatitis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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