Interview transcription:

We interviewed Penelope Pratsou to learn what someone should do if they have chronic itchy skin that flares up.

If someone has itchy skin and no rash or bug bite is presenting, or more of a chronic thing that happens and flares up from time to time, what should that person do to help resolve it?

Penelope Pratsou: I think that you can take some simple measures to try and resolve that itching, like avoiding soap and making sure that your skin is not too dry and that you are moisturising. But, if things are not getting under control after that point, and because this can be quite a distressing problem to have and can affect your life, and your sleep and your mood, then I would urge you to pick up the phone.

Make an appointment to see me, and we can discuss what’s going on. I would want to take a careful history to understand what’s going on and to what extent this is affecting you. I would want to check your skin and check you all over to make sure that I’m getting a clear idea of what’s happening. Based on that, we would want to do some further investigations. You can leave your first appointment with an individual treatment plan, just for you.

The first step to feeling in charge of your skin is to book an initial consultation


One thing that I’m sure a lot of people are tempted to do when they have itchy skin is to scratch. Do you advise against scratching?

Penelope Pratsou: We often see this itch-scratch cycle. You feel itchy, and you can’t stop scratching. It brings on a rash, or it can bring on these areas where you’re bleeding, and actually, there are ways to break that cycle. There are specific distraction techniques that I can recommend and, also, meditation and mindfulness can be very helpful because, as you said, this scratching doesn’t help. In some cases, it can become a habit, and we must identify that there is a habit beginning to form and break it.

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

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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.