Lately I lie in bed each night scratching itches I either didn't have or didn't notice during the day. What's going on? What can I do about it?
A. You're experiencing a fairly common problem called nocturnal pruritus. This maddening condition can be triggered by several things, including our own circadian rhythm, the body's natural 24-hour cycle. This shift can trigger nighttime skin changes such as greater blood flow, feelings of warmth, and lower levels of corticosteroids that might otherwise tamp down inflammation (and itching).
Hormone changes from menopause and pregnancy can also cause skin dryness and itching, which can feel worse at night. Other possible culprits include certain medications, such as antibiotics, blood pressure pills, opioids, and diuretics, or skin care products such as soaps, deodorants, or bug repellents.
Rarely, nighttime itching signals a more serious health condition, such as hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland) or liver or kidney disease.
Try these strategies to ease the itch:
- Change your bedding or pajamas to softer, cotton-rich versions.
- Don't linger in a bath or shower, which can lead to dry skin.
- Apply a thick moisturizer to the most itchy areas.
- Place a humidifier in your bedroom to add moisture to the air.
If none of these measures brings relief, talk with your doctor about next steps.
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