Interview transcription:

We interviewed Dr Penelope Pratsou to understand the different causes of itchy skin and how it is diagnosed.

Can you give me an overview of the different causes of itchy skin?

Penelope Pratsou: There are so many causes for itchy skin or pruritus. If a patient comes to me with itchy skin but they don’t have any sign of a rash, this may be a sign of an internal problem and will require some blood tests. Blood abnormalities can be linked to something as simple as low iron levels or an underactive thyroid gland, to something more serious like a kidney or liver problem. All of these things can cause itching. Sometimes, a cause for itchy skin cannot be found, but it is important to rule out any underlying causes.

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How do you diagnose the cause of itchy skin?

Penelope Pratsou: If you come to me with itchy skin, I will take a thorough history and examination to look into the cause of your itching. I can also offer a vast variety of blood tests to make sure there are no underlying issues causing it. Often, it is a process of elimination. In a large proportion of people that I see, it is not always possible to narrow it down to a single cause.

Dry and itchy skin can also occur as we get older. In patients over the age of 65, the skin structure changes which can cause it to become very dry and itchy. In other circumstances, a patient’s nerve pathway could be causing the itchy sensation.

Find out how to prevent itchy skin here.

If you have any of the symptoms or conditions that we’ve just discussed, we invite you to book a consultation with Dr Penelope Pratsou where she’ll be able to assess your condition and give you a suitable treatment plan.

About the author

Dr Penelope Pratsou | Consultant Dermatologist

MBChB, MRCP (UK) (Dermatology)

I’m Dr Penelope Pratsou, a skilled independent Consultant Dermatologist based in Berkshire. I have specialist expertise in the diagnosis and management of all skin cancers, and in performing mole checks. I’m a trained skin surgeon and remove skin cancers, moles, skin tags, cysts and warts.

I also have invaluable experience in dealing with all skin conditions, from the common skin complaints of acne, rosacea, eczema and psoriasis, to the rarer and more complex skin problems, having seen it all through years of NHS work.

After I obtained my Membership to the Royal College of Physicians, I undertook rigorous specialist training in dermatology, before being appointed as a Consultant Dermatologist at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, Reading. There, I helped set up and lead a busy clinic for the diagnosis and treatment of suspected skin cancer. I was also actively involved in supervising and training both dermatology and GP trainees.

Alongside my increasingly busy private practice, I have maintained an NHS practice in Oxford in order to continue to engage with challenging cases and to develop my specialist interest in skin allergy.

Learn more about me