Itching is driving me crazy


DR FLO: Itching is driving me crazy

To treat the itching, the underlying cause has to be identified and treated.

Dr Flo, I have two problems. One, is there a solution for neck cracking? Two, I itch all over my body, especially at night. I can’t sleep and I have a strange taste in my mouth. Are these conditions are related? Mbugua

 

Dear Mbugua,

Cracking of the neck happens when the joints between the bones of the spine at the neck (the cervical vertebrae) stretch, stretching the joint capsule, which leads to less pressure in the joint, which causes the fluid in the joint to become gas (boiling or cavitation), or a bubble is formed which produces the popping sound.

If this is the cause, it does not happen every time you move because it takes about 20 minutes before cavitation can occur again. It is usually harmless, unless it happens too frequently, in which case it can lead to permanent stretching of the capsule and the joint ligaments, causing joint instability and wearing out.

The cracking can be due to movement of tendons and/or ligaments. It can also happen when the cartilage wears out and bone grinds on bone due to osteoarthritis. This will happen every time you move the neck, and there will be pain and stiffness.

Causes of concern include pain, swelling, stiffness, numbness and tingling, weakness or dizziness. If these symptoms are present, please visit a health facility for further evaluation.

This may include X-ray films, CT or MRI scans, and follow up by an orthopaedic specialist and physiotherapist.

Itching all over the body can be caused by many illnesses. These include allergies, inflammatory skin conditions, skin infections, helminth infection (worms), diabetes, thyroid disease, liver disease, kidney disease, nerve disease, iron deficiency anaemia, HIV infection and some types of cancer.

It can also occur as a reaction to medication, dryness of the skin or even due to ageing. Most likely the lack of sleep is caused by the itching and the strange taste in the mouth could be from the underlying illness.

To treat the itching, the underlying cause has to be identified and treated. There are also medications that can be given to help relieve the itching like antihistamines, steroids, etc.

Meanwhile, avoid scratching yourself. Place a cool cloth or ice over the area that is itchy for a few minutes. Use mild soap and warm water to bathe.

Use moisturising creams/lotion after taking a shower and use sunscreen. Avoid clothes and beddings made from wool and synthetic fabrics and use cotton instead.

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Dr Flo, I’ve had an itchy rash at the back of my head for almost 10 years. The rash is now spreading upwards and it gives me discomfort. I also sweat abnormally day and night. What is my problem? Enoka

 

Dear Enoka,

A rash on the head can be due to a wide range of causes, ranging from pseudofolliculitis barbae (rashes that form as hair regrows after shaving), to inflammatory conditions and skin infections.

Please visit a skin specialist (dermatologist) for evaluation to determine the exact problem so that you can get proper treatment.

In the meantime, avoid shaving hair completely, wash your hair and scalp daily with a mild shampoo to remove dead cells and dirt.

Avoid scratching your scalp because it irritates the skin, which may lead to more itchiness. Avoid over-drying your scalp e.g. by being in the sun for long or poor hydration.

If this doesn’t work, you can try medicated shampoo, leaving it on for about five minutes before rinsing. You may need to try several until you find one that works for you.

Sweating in excess of what is needed for temperature regulation, it is called hyperhidrosis. Hyperhidrosis can affect the whole body or specific sites.

Excessive sweating is not considered dangerous, but the constant wetness of the skin makes it easier to get other skin conditions like fungal infections, eczema and cracking.

Excessive sweating is usually due to overactive sweat glands, due to miscommunication from the nerves.

Most people have primary hyperhidrosis, which means that the sweating is not caused by any disease or infection. It may be triggered by a part of the nervous system (neurological hyperhidrosis), by eating (gustatory hyperhidrosis) or have no obvious cause.

In secondary hyperhidrosis, the sweating is due to another disease e.g. thyroid problem, diabetes, nervous system diseases, or some medications.

The child of a parent with hyperhidrosis has 25 per cent chance of suffering from the same. Hormonal changes and emotions can also trigger hyperhidrosis, for example, sweating when nervous.

The condition cannot be cured but it can be managed. You should take a lot of water and wear cotton clothing. You can also apply aluminium chloride/chlorhydrate solution to the most affected areas.

If the sweating continues to be excessive, see a dermatologist, for iontophoresis, a mild electric current passed to the most affected area through water.

Some medications or injections may also be prescribed. In case another illness is suspected, the doctor will do the necessary checks to determine this.

Because the sweating may be triggered by emotional responses e.g. anxiety, fear and excitement, it would also be beneficial to learn relaxation techniques to help reduce the sweating in stressful situations.

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