Ask the docs: Every itch needs its own remedy

King Features SyndicateMarch 22, 2014 

Q: For several months I've had persistent itchiness on my back, arms and hands. I've tried lotions, antihistamines and cortisone cream, but nothing helps completely. What can I do?

CHARLIE P., Davenport, Iowa

A: There's good news for you, Charlie, and for millions of others who are afflicted. Washington University in St. Louis has even opened The Center for the Study of Itch, and they've made some surprising discoveries.

Itches resulting from histamine reactions may be triggered by allergic contact dermatitis. Antihistamines and cortisone creams often are effective. But most of the time, chronic itching is associated with an overactive thyroid, eczema, psoriasis, dry skin, kidney or liver failure, certain cancers or a pinched or damaged nerve.

Each type calls for its own remedy.

So, first you and your doc have to ID the underlying cause of your itching: Are you anemic? Do you have undiagnosed or uncontrolled diabetes or thyroid disease? How's the health of your liver and kidneys? Get a thorough workup.

We also know that certain medications used for other conditions may help, depending on your itch trigger. For example, some folks get relief from SSRIs, used to treat depression; gabapentin used to treat restless leg syndrome, seizures and nerve pain; pregabalin used to treat fibromyalgia and nerve pain; paroxetine used to treat obsessive compulsive disorder; and opioid antagonists used to counter opiate overdoses.

Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. To live your healthiest, visit Distributed by King Features Syndicate.

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