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Sudden Itching All Over Back

a woman scratching her back

Symptoms of Back itching

Reasons for why your back is so itchy can be due to an allergic reaction from certain hygiene products, chemicals, or plants. Another cause of itchy back is shingles. 

A back itch can be a very bothersome symptom, especially since it is in a very hard-to-reach area. There are various potential causes for a back itch that may or may not involve a rash. Although scratching may provide some relief, the underlying reason behind should be identified to prevent skin damage.

Common characteristics of back itch

Scratching linked to back itch can cause breaks in the skin that can cause bleeding or infection, often further worsening the issue. So you should try to avoid your urge to scratch.

Common accompanying symptoms

Along with itchiness, you may also get the following symptoms.

  • Pain or tenderness
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Rash
  • Redness
  • Warmth
  • Blisters or bumps
  • Dryness
  • Changes in skin texture: like it becomes scaly, leathery, or papery

These symptoms might be localized to only one area on the back or spread throughout the back. On the other hand, a back itch may not be linked to visible symptoms at all. Therefore, consulting with your physician for proper treatment is necessary.

Causes of Back itch

An itch also termed pruritus, happens due to irritation or stimulation of cells and receptors on the skin, mostly related to nerves. Multiple conditions can stimulate these nerve cells that can cause itching. 

Localized causes of rash

Skin conditions that often come with a rash may include the following.

Dermatologic: Many skin conditions like eczema, hives, psoriasis and several other illnesses that specifically impact your skin can result in localized itchiness on the back. Often, such conditions are also linked to symptoms like redness, blisters, or flaking. Also, the skin that is simply dry due to ageing or temperature changes can also cause itchy skin.

Allergens: The skin primarily acts as a protective barrier and is sensitive to environmental factors. Allergens like drugs, topical treatments such as soaps or lotions, certain fabrics or metals, foods, plants, and several other substances. Itchiness comes as a warning from using these irritants.

Infectious: Multiple infectious pathogens, like bacteria, viruses, and fungi can cause itchy, localized infections on the back. 

Localized causes without rash

Localized causes of a back itch that are not linked to rash or skin changes are rare and usually related to psychogenic causes.

Shingles (herpes zoster)

Shingles (herpes zoster) is a disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus - a similar virus which causes chickenpox. Early signs of shingles include burning or shooting pain and itching or tingling, usually on one side of the body or face. Rashes or blisters can be seen anywhere from 1-14 days later. If shingles appear on the face, it may impact the vision or hearing.

Most common treatments for shingles involve painkillers and prescription antiviral medicines.

Generalized itch

There are plenty of "normal" causes for itching, meaning the cause is not disease-related and does not cause any seriously damaged skin.

The most common causes are:

Dry skin, due to bathing in soap or bubble bath that strips the natural oils from the skin.

Mild allergies may be caused due to dust; certain flowers and plants; nickel-containing jewellery; and any sort of soap, detergent, perfume or lotion.

Pregnancy is due to stretching of the skin or due to a condition called prurigo. 

Menopause is due to hormonal changes that may cause the skin to be overly dry.

Eczema (atopic dermatitis)

Atopic dermatitis also called eczema, dermatitis, atopic eczema, or AD is a chronic skin condition along with an itchy rash.

AD is caused by a genetic condition that impacts the skin's ability to guard itself against bacteria and allergens.

AD is mostly seen in infants and young children. People who are more susceptible are those having a family history of AD, asthma, or hay fever.

Infants can have a dry, scaly, itchy rash on the scalp, forehead, and cheeks. Older children can have a rash in the creases of elbows, knees, and buttocks area.

Without treatment, a child may not sleep properly due to the intense itching. Constant scratching on the skin may lead to skin infections and the skin may turn thickened and leathery.

Dermatofibroma

A dermatofibroma is a fairly common skin growth that usually appears in the lower legs but may seem anywhere on the body. These mole-like growths are noncancerous.

Dermatofibroma may appear after a minor injury as its cause is not yet known. Dermatofibromas are most common in adults and are a rarely found issue in children.

Symptoms like hard, raised growth that is red, pink, or brown and less than half an inch across can be seen. They are generally painless but may be tender or itchy, and may seem alone or in groups.

Any new growth on the skin needs to be seen by a medical professional, especially if the growth is very dark in colour or changes its shape or appearance rapidly.

Chronic kidney disease

Chronic kidney disease is kidney damage caused over time by other issues, especially high blood pressure and diabetes. Eventually, kidney function becomes impaired and wastes no longer get properly filtered from the blood, causing serious illness.

Most susceptible are people over age 50 with high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and/or a family history of kidney disease.

Symptoms like fatigue, difficulty concentrating, muscle cramps at night, poor appetite, dry, itchy skin, swollen eyes, feet, and ankles, and increased urination.

If it is left untreated, can result in serious illness, kidney failure, and even death. It is important to consult a medical professional as soon as symptoms begin.

Allergic contact dermatitis of the back

Allergic contact dermatitis means the skin has touched something that caused an allergic reaction, leading to inflammation and irritation. 

The first contact with the substance sensitises the immune system, and then the second contact generally causes the symptoms.

Common causes of allergic contact dermatitis include:

  • Nickel is used in belt buckles, the buttons on pants, and jewellery.
  • Poison ivy.
  • Various types of perfumes, like those found in soaps, fabric softeners, and detergents.

Symptoms are red, itching, scaling and flaking skin that may be very painful due to the irritation and inflammation.

Back itch home treatments

You can prevent some causes of back itch with a few simple lifestyle changes.

Keep the skin properly moisturized using unscented, dermatologically tested lotion for itching and the best moisturizer for dry skin on the back can prevent dryness.

Avoid allergens: seek attention to the symptoms that occur after being around certain substances and try to avoid them.

Take Away

If your back itch still persists despite using some home remedies, consult with your doctor. If an underlying metabolic, hematologic, or neurologic condition is the reason for your itch, your doctor will focus on treating that condition first. 

You should seek immediate medical attention for a back itch linked to abscesses that grow in size or become very painful, as well as if you have a high fever, nausea, or vomiting.