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What Causes Itching Under the Skin?

Laura M. Sands
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A feeling of itching under the skin may be caused by parasites that have burrowed beneath the skin’s surface. These chronic itch symptoms can be among the most frustrating and cause incessant scratching with no relief. Chemotherapy and radiation may also cause a person to feel itchy all over, but these symptoms usually subside within a brief period following treatment or are completely alleviated once treatment is discontinued. Itching may also be caused by another disorder known as delusory parasitosis or Morgellon’s disease.

A persistent itch, also known as pruritus, is usually caused by an allergen, an environmental irritant or may even be caused by certain drugs or prescription medications. These may also appear as itching without rash. While each of these can cause a person to feel itching under the skin, these symptoms most commonly affect the top of the skin and will cause a person to scratch incessantly in an attempt to find relief, even temporarily so. As soon as the cause of this type of itching is addressed, itching usually subsides. An itching sensation under the skin, however, is impossible to relieve by scratching and can feel as though it is driving a person crazy.

The presence of parasites beneath the skin will prompt a chronic itch and prompt scratching with no relief. Several parasites can cause this type of itching, including gnathostoma, which is a roundworm transmitted to humans when eating undercooked seafood, poultry or when drinking infected water. Mites, such as those caused by scabies, may also cause a severe itching under the skin. In order to calm irritation and stop the itch entirely, medical intervention will be necessary to remove the parasites or mites. The exact type of treatment will depend on the type of pest that has burrowed its way under the skin.

In some individuals, however, itching under the skin is caused by a psychological condition. Delusory parasitosis causes a person to believe that parasites are living beneath the skin’s surface and causing a deep itch. Often, the itching that is perceived in this condition is triggered by the use of drugs or by extreme emotional stress. Although the perceived cause of an itch is not real, delusory parasitosis is a very real condition and usually requires psychiatric treatment to cure this disorder. Also known as Morgellon’s disease, it may also produce skin lesions and ulcers, but this is usually the result of damage to the skin caused by incessant scratching and picking.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Laura M. Sands
By Laura M. Sands , Former Writer
Laura Sands, the founder of a publishing company, brings her passion for writing and her expertise in digital publishing to her work. With a background in social sciences and extensive online work experience, she crafts compelling copy and content across various platforms. Her ability to understand and connect with target audiences makes her a skilled contributor to any content creation team.

Discussion Comments

By anon997451 — On Jan 09, 2017

I have started my second winter of this season. My scalp, back, buttocks, shoulders, and some on my face. I think the blisters scab dry then itch like crazy. What could this be? I have had allergy tests without allergies shown.

By anon946109 — On Apr 16, 2014

My unbearable itching story started seven months ago. I was having no rash at all (only after the cruel scratching, my skin would get the dermographia). I also have an Autoimmune Thyroiditis, two past episodes of Urticaria and white spots of Vitiligo. However, this unusual itch was different from the urticaria as it had no visible sign, only the "itch to the bone" some of you described above. No antihistamine would work. I even tried acupuncture, but in vain. The blood tests were (frustrating) in the right parameters.

My itch has diminished since January. It did not go away but it became bearable; it is now sometimes itching during the day and almost always before going to bed (the cruelest itches were always during the night).

I attribute this blessed relief to three things:

I prayed and focused more on my spiritual needs. I am a Christian and I prayed to Saint Ephraim the New, Saint Nectarios of Aegina and Saint Panteleimon.

I started to admit that it might be an emotional problem. I did not want to accept it before, but I started to consider that my emotions might try to escape outside through my skin. I even linked a stressful episode from September with the debut of the unusual itch. I also noticed that when I am very, very tired, the itch becomes unbearable.

I went on a gluten free diet four months ago, to protect my thyroid.

I tried to sum up as much as possible. I hope this will help. I know how frustrating this affliction is, and so misunderstood by others, including doctors. But hang on, it will go away just like it came!

By cloudel — On May 29, 2012

Hydrocodone is the only drug that causes me to have itchy skin all over. I’m not the only one who experiences this side effect, either. My best friend and my mother both have told me that after taking it, they can’t stop scratching.

It’s the kind of itch you can’t get to with your nails. It is continuous and only fades as the drug wears off.

I only take this drug when I am in extreme pain, and I’ve discovered that if I cut the pill in half, I won’t experience any internal itching. Half a pill is usually enough to take care of my pain, because my body is really easily affected by medication.

By seag47 — On May 28, 2012

Morgellon’s disease sounds terrible! It sounds like patients with this condition are living a horror movie.

I have a fear of parasites and worms, so to even think about my skin crawling from something underneath it is too much for me to handle. I have had itching skin all over before, but I have always been able to track the source of the problem, and usually, a bump or a rash was involved. I think that if I had internal skin itching with no visible exterior signs, I would absolutely freak out.

Laura M. Sands

Laura M. Sands

Former Writer

Laura Sands, the founder of a publishing company, brings her passion for writing and her expertise in digital publishing...
Learn more
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