DR FLO: What is the source of this head-to-toe itch?


Itching all over the body can be caused by various illnesses, reaction to medication, dryness of skin or even due to ageing.

Monday May 20 2019

Dr Flo, for about three weeks I have been itching all over my body, from my scalp to the soles of my feet. This happens in the mornings and evenings. During the day it’s manageable, I guess because I am occupied. The weird thing is that I don’t have swellings or bumps as a result of the scratching, but when I do, they last a couple of hours then disappear. What could be wrong? Mitch
Dear Mitch,
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.
To treat the itching, the underlying cause has to be identified and treated. There are also medications like antihistamines or steroids that can be given to relieve the itching.
Meanwhile, avoid scratching yourself. You can place a cool cloth or ice over the area that is itching the most for a few minutes to relieve the itch.
Use sunscreen when you are going out into the sun. Use mild soap and warm water (not hot water) to bathe, and use moisturising creams/lotion after taking a shower.
Avoid clothes and beddings made from material like wool and some synthetic fabrics that can trigger itching, and opt for cotton clothing and beddings instead.

Dr Flo, I bleed through the anus like periods. What is causing this? KC
Dear KC,
Bleeding through the anus like you have periods could be due to endometriosis. This is where there is an abnormal growth of tissue similar to the uterus lining, located in another part of the body. The same way the uterus lining (endometrium) bleeds each month, this abnormal growth bleeds, wherever it is. It may also cause pain before, during and after periods, painful sexual intercourse, pain when passing stool or urination, and infertility. Most commonly, endometriosis occurs in the fallopian tubes, the ovaries, large intestines or the lining of the pelvis, but the lesions can be found anywhere including the liver, lung and brain. In your case, you may have endometrial tissue in the rectum or large intestines.
The bleeding could be also be due to a tear in the lining of the anus or rectum, because of friction from passing large stool, hard stool, or from diarrhoea. It could also be due to an abnormal growth in the intestines or rectum.
The bleeding could also be due to haemorrhoids, or piles. These are veins that bulge in the lower part of the rectum and anus. The walls of the veins stretch and get irritated, and easily get a tear and bleed. They can occur due to straining when passing stool e.g. due to constipation or diarrhoea; or any activity that causes repeated high pressure in the abdominal region e.g. a persistent cough and lifting weights.
It would be advisable to see a gynaecologist for thorough examination, tests and treatment, if endometriosis is confirmed. A surgeon may also be involved, so that a colonoscopy can be done to visualise the lining of your anus, rectum and large intestines to verify the cause of the bleeding and the best treatment.

Dr Flo, sometimes when I have sexual intercourse, I see some blood in the semen. What could be the problem? HM
Dear HM,
Blood in semen is called hematospermia. In many cases, it has no identifiable cause, and it goes away on its own without treatment.
In some people, it may be due to a specific cause e.g. excessive sexual activity, infections in the reproductive system, inflammation of the prostate or any other part of the reproductive system, kidney stones or other obstruction in the prostate or in the seminal vesicles, or growths in the reproductive system. It can also be caused by surgeries or medical procedures e.g. prostate biopsy, prostate surgery or vasectomy.
It would be advisable to be examined, and to have urine tests, sexually transmitted infection screening, and ultrasound scan or CT scan, if necessary, and semen analysis.
Treatment will depend on the cause of the problem.

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