What Causes Itchy Skin in MS?
Do you suffer from MS and experience itchy skin? Puritus, (the medical term for itchy skin) can occur in people with MS, although is often neglected and therefore not treated. There are a few explanations why it happens, and also a few things you can do to manage it.
Why Does My Skin Itch?
MS is an autoimmune condition affecting the nerves. The immune system attacks the myelin sheet that protects the nerves, causes inflammation and disrupts the signals sent from brain to the rest of the body. The symptoms will vary depending of the area of the brain affected and impaired electrical impulses will lead to abnormal sensations. This is also the cause of MS numbness and tingling. MS is associated with so called paroxysmal sensory symptoms – for example itchiness that may come and go.
It can happen all of a sudden or in waves; it may be felt for a few minutes or for longer periods of time. It can affect different parts of the face and body, and the sensation of itchiness may move randomly from one are to another. The itch will usually become worse during a flare-up of your MS.
Itchiness may also be caused by the MS drugs given by injection. If your skin becomes itchy at the injection site, it is likely because the skin got irritated when you took the drug. You may also experience itchy skin as an allergic reaction to an MS drug –in this case the itchiness is often generalized to the entire body.
Although there are no long term risks from itchy skin, this issue can be disturbing and irritating. You should avoid scratching because if you scratch your skin too much there is an increased risk for skin infection. In some cases, the itching is very intense, awake you awake your from sleep, lasting from few minutes to hours and affecting different parts of the body (i.e. back of the scalp, foot, abdomen, hands)
Tips to Manage Itchy Skin at Home
- Your doctor may prescribe some medication (anticonvulsants, antidepressants or antihistaminic drugs) in cases of severe itching. Over the counter ointments like corticosteroids usually don’t help.
- Try cool, wet compresses on the itchy skin, they can decrease the sensation and also help you avoid scratching the area.
- Lotions and ointments with camphor and eucalyptus will also give a cool sensation and help relieve the itchiness. Other home remedies that could work include coconut oil, petroleum jelly, aloe vera gel, baking soda, and apple cider vinegar which are applied directly on the affected area.
- Take a lukewarm bath, and add some uncooked oatmeal or baking soda in the water.
- Avoid common skin irritants (found in soaps, creams, detergents, house hold cleaners, air fresheners, fabric softeners, cosmetics) – use natural products free of artificial colors, dyes or perfumes. Also keep in mind that some jewelry can cause allergic reactions manifesting with itchiness.
- Avoid stress, because stress aggravates virtually all symptoms, including itchy skin. Try yoga, meditation or breathing techniques.
Use home remedies only for mild itchiness. If you experience severe, intense itchiness talk to your doctor to receive adequate treatment.