THAT ITCH YOU CAN’T SCRATCH

An itch can irritate the daylights out of you, and if it is one you can’t scratch, well, then, God Bless! However, sometimes, it is best to let an itch be. We get experts to elaborate why.

THAT ITCH YOU CAN’T SCRATCH

It is difficult to control the impulse to scratch an itch anywhere on your body, but doubly so when it occurs in the vaginal or genital area. But not many know that an itch is the consequence of various reasons including liver disorders, kidney problems, reaction towards some medicines and thyroid issues. And though scratching the itch is mostly an involuntary phenomenon, bringing much satisfaction in its wake, in some extreme cases, the irritation of the itch can be accompanied by a feeling of exhaustion.

However, some doctors advise that an itch is best left unscratched. For instance, Mumbai-based cosmetic dermatologist and laser surgeon Dr Apratim Goel believes that an itch is just a symptom and not a disease per se. “It is important to know what is causing the itch so that the underlying cause can be treated,” says Dr Goel. “There is an itch-scratch cycle, which is a vicious one and can go on if the itch is not controlled. So also, it is best to avoid scratching an itch, as it can lead to wound formation and increase the chances of infection, damage the skin integrity, cause cosmetic alterations or sometimes simply cause embarrassment.” While often it becomes difficult to determine the exact cause of the itch or rash, it is always advisable to take doctors’ advice for proper diagnosis and treatment. Local examination of the affected area, certain blood investigations or a skin patch test can be done for proper diagnosis, based on which doctors will prescribe treatments. There are topical and oral medicines. Anti-puritic medication like Lacto Calamine lotion, menthol ointment, hydrocortisone cream, etc. can also be used for local application.

TRICK THAT ITCH

Like most issues, prevention is indeed better than cure when it concerns an itch too. And maintaining good hygiene is one simple way to counter an itch.

1. Maintain personal hygiene by washing the vagina once or twice a day with only lukewarm water or by using a soap-free cleanser

2. Wear loose-fitting underwear and outer clothing

3. Avoid nylon undergarments

4. Avoid rubbing or scratching the affected area

5. During period, ensure you change your sanitary pads frequently, and in case you use tampons, insert them with care and ensure you change them frequently too

6. Ensure you are hydrated well

7. Consume multivitamins

8. Keep diabetes in control

9. Maintain a healthy body-weight

10. Avoid the temptation to experiment with every new toiletry product or cream available in the market, as an allergic reaction to one of them might set off an itch-scratch cycle

11. Avoid the application of steroid creams for more than two days.

ITCHING IN GROINS AND PRIVATES

Called tinea or fungal infection, the itching usually happens due to moisture, humidity around the area, which turns out to be the right atmosphere for the fungi to grow. These infections are common in body folds and are especially seen in diabetic patients. Such rashes can be very embarrassing for men and women alike. Solution: Consult a dermatologist. Always keep the area dry. Wear cotton clothes. Use antifungal dusting powder daily, twice a day.

VAGINAL ITCHING DUE TO CANDIDIASIS

Itching of the skin in the vaginal area can be due to fungal infection like candidiasis transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse. It is accompanied by a curdlike, white discharge. Itching is also seen after menopause due to changes in hormones, caused by vaginal dryness—a condition called lichen sclerosus atrophicus. However, the itching causes vaginal erosions and worsens the mucosal lining of the vagina. Solution: Using antifungal pessary and the right pH maintenance of vagina is a must.

PARASITIC INFESTATIONS LIKE SCABIES

This is a typical itchy condition, which is more common in children but can affect other family members, too. A mite causes it. And the itching is more pronounced in the finger web-space area and takes place at night. It tends to spread quickly in schools, through playgrounds, gardens and other areas where kids get together, and then spreads to their families. The treatment for these infestations is easy and must be supervised by a doctor or a qualified specialist. Solution: Treat your whole family at the same time if your child has scabies. Use the creams and lotions your doctor prescribes diligently; it’s better to not let the affected person get out of home until fully cured.

SEBORRHOEIC DERMATITIS

This is an extremely frustrating itchy and flaky scalp condition that looks like dandruff but can become socially embarrassing. It can occur in all age groups but is more prominently in youngersters. Solution: Washing the scalp with zinc pyrithrone containing shampoo helps.

DRY SKIN

The most common cause of itchy skin is dry skin caused due to atopy, diabetes or even thyroid. Solution: A daily moisturizing skincare regime works on the skin to a large extent. Warm coconut or argan oil massage, once a week, nourishes the skin. Also, use an oatmeal-based moisturiser soon after bath. And results in shrinking, regular moisturising and oiling can retain the oils in the body and can keep the skin soft and healthy. This is also why people with oily skin do not generally suffer from itches because their body secretes the required oils to keep their skin soft. But one of the most annoying itches is genital itches. Especially in women, vaginal itchiness, accompanied by vulvar irritations, can cause them a lot of distress. According to Dr Bandita Sinha, a consulting gynaecologist and obstetrician, Fortis Hospital and Apollo Clinic, Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra, seasonal changes can also contribute to the rising number of itching cases. There can be many reasons for your skin to itch. “As a practicing dermatologist, I come across itchy skin problems every day in all age groups and in all parts of the body,” elaborates Dr Goel. “It can be something as simple as dry skin to something as grave as kidney disease or infectious such as scabies or lice.” Dr Sinha believes that “The rising heat and humidity during summers and monsoons can also cause health.

TYPES OF ITCHY RASHES:

issues in people.” Though most itches can be treated with over the- counter medications or home remedies, genital itches are best treated by a qualified expert. “Sadly, some people, especially women, suffer an itch for years and resort to over-the-counter medication that gives temporary relief before they choose to consult a doctor,” says Dr Sinha. Given below are some of the causes for vaginal itchiness, as listed by Dr Sinha, which need medical attention:

LOCAL IRRITANTS

Irritation and allergy in the genital areas can occur as a result of exposure to strong soaps, feminine hygiene products, perfumes, lubricants, hygiene solutions and unhygienic routines followed by a woman.

ALLERGENS

These may include certain foods, drugs and even clothing, especially tight clothing and synthetic undergarments worn during hot and humid days.

MICROORGANISMS

The groin provides a warm, moist environment ideal for microorganisms to thrive in. Most common of these microorganisms are fungal infections such as candida, ring worm and bacterial vaginosis.

SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED INFECTIONS

Herpes or trichomoniasis can also cause itch in the vulva.

PARASITES

Sometimes, pubic lice and pinworms can cause a nagging itch.

SKIN CONDITIONS

Some non-infectious skin conditions such as dermatitis, psoriasis and lichen sclerosis can be the cause for itchy genitals.

SENILE VULVITIS

Changes associated with decreased hormonal levels following menopause can result in itchiness.

NEUROPATHIC CONDITION

Overactive or stretched nerve supply can cause burning as well as itching too.

DIETARY DEFICIENCY

Sometimes, anaemia, deficiency of vitamins like riboflavin and hypothyroidism can also give rise to itches.

LIFESTYLE OR HEREDITARY DISEASES

Diabetes, obesity or jaundice can all increase the tendency for itches in one’s private regions.

PREGNANCY

The vaginal discharge during pregnancy can be the main cause of itchiness and irritation in the skin of the vulva. Some of the tests that may be prescribed for diagnosis include:

1. Examination of the cervical discharge

2. Vaginal discharge examination and culture

3. Pap smear

4. Skin biopsies of the vulvar region

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