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  • Writer's pictureKidney Conversations

The Kidney Disease Symptom You Can't Ignore: Itchy Skin


Uremic Pruritus or itchy skin is a lesser-known symptom of kidney disease that affects millions globally, yet it can have an immense impact on one's quality and state of mind. In this blog post, we'll discuss the root causes of itchy skin when dealing with kidney disease, the various treatments available to combat its effects, and how you can prevent it before symptoms arise.


Kidney disease, otherwise referred to as chronic kidney disease (CKD), is an illness that gradually reduces the kidneys' capacity over time. As a result of this decline in renal function, toxins, and waste products may accumulate within your body and cause numerous signs and symptoms, including itchy skin.

Itchy skin, scientifically referred to as pruritus, is a common manifestation of kidney disease. It can be caused by various factors like the accumulation of toxins in the blood, dehydration, and certain medications. The irritation may range from a minor annoyance to serious conditions that detrimentally affect one's quality of life.



kidney patient scratching due to itchy skin


Causes of Itchy Skin in Kidney Disease


Kidney disease can be uncomfortable and cause itchy skin due to an excess of waste products in the bloodstream. The kidneys typically filter these toxins out, but when they are not working as intended, this accumulation may trigger a plethora of issues including itchiness. To counterbalance this bothersome symptom, taking proactive steps such as drinking plenty of water or following a specialized diet might help reduce discomfort.


When the body is deprived of liquids, it can leave skin feeling dry and irritated - a reality that may be particularly difficult for those suffering from kidney disease who must restrict their liquid intake to protect their kidneys. Itchy skin resulting from dehydration is yet another consequence of living with advanced kidney disease.



Stages of Kidney Disease

Severity of Itchy Skin

Stage 1: Kidney damage with normal or increased GFR

Mild to moderate

Stage 2: Kidney damage with mildly decreased GFR

Mild to moderate

Stage 3: Moderately decreased GFR

Moderate to severe

Stage 4: Severely decreased GFR

Severe

Stage 5: Kidney failure

Severe

Please note that the severity of itchy skin may vary depending on the individual case and other factors, and this chart is intended to provide a general idea of the relationship between kidney disease stages and itchy skin severity. It is important to consult with a healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment. To read about the stages of kidney disease please read here



Itchy skin is a common side effect of medications in patients with kidney disease, particularly for those utilizing ACE inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) to manage high blood pressure. Additionally, erythropoietin-stimulating agents (ESAs), which are used to treat anemia can also induce the same irritating sensation on the surface of your skin.



Women with itchy skin looking at her arm


Treatments for Itchy Skin in Kidney Disease


If you're dealing with itchy skin due to kidney disease, don't worry! There are many treatments available that can provide relief. Before beginning any treatment plan, however, be sure to identify and address the root cause of your itching. For instance, if an accumulation of waste in your blood is causing irritation on your skin, dialysis may be employed to remove these excess toxins from your system.


In addition to managing the root cause, there are a few non-pharmacologic treatments that can successfully reduce itchy skin. To begin with, avoid hot water and strong soaps in order to steer clear of dryness and irritation. Applying moisturizing creams or lotions will also help provide relief from irritating itching sensations as well.


To alleviate the suffering of itchy skin associated with kidney disease, pharmacologic interventions may include topical creams and antihistamines to reduce inflammation and irritation. In certain instances, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) used to treat depression have proven successful in diminishing itching as well.

It is essential to recognize that treating kidney disease itself can also help resolve itchy skin. This could entail medications that assist in regulating blood pressure, diabetes management, or anemia treatment among many other things. By dealing with the actual root cause of kidney disease, it may be possible to decrease or even eradicate any sign of itchy skin completely.



Female kidney patients with extream itchy skin


Effects of Itchy Skin on Mental Health


Not only can constant itching interfere with one's sleep, but it can also take a toll on one's mental health. Those suffering from kidney disease who have to deal with this issue often find difficulty in maintaining a healthy sleeping pattern due to the urge of scratching their skin continuously which then leads them down an emotional spiral consisting of feelings of irritability and helplessness that disrupts their day-to-day life.


Itchy skin can be a source of immense discomfort and distress for those living with kidney disease. By paying special attention to their skin health as part of treatment, healthcare providers have the chance to dramatically improve not only physical well-being but also mental wellness and overall quality of life. Thus, addressing itchy skin should always be an integral component of any patient's care plan.


Open communication between patients and their healthcare professionals is essential when it comes to discussing new or worsening symptoms, especially those associated with itchy skin. Additionally, people living with kidney disease should be cognizant of preventive measures that can help alleviate the itchiness such as controlling blood sugar levels and avoiding certain medications.

Prevention of Itchy Skin in Kidney Disease

Although it may seem impossible to completely eradicate the possibility of itchy skin for those with kidney disease, there are precautionary measures that can be taken in order to help minimize this risk.

To combat itchy skin, managing your blood sugar levels is essential. Elevated glucose levels can cause dry and irritated skin; therefore, if you have diabetes or another condition that affects your body's sugar balance, be sure to work hand in hand with a healthcare provider for the best support possible.


If you're looking to dodge itchy skin, one way is by being mindful of the medications that can provoke skin irritation and allergic reactions. Those with kidney disease should always consult their medical professional prior to taking any new prescription drugs or supplements, and make sure they alert them if anything changes in terms of symptoms.

In addition, there are certain lifestyle changes that can help prevent itchy skin. For example, taking shorter showers or baths with warm, rather than hot, water can help prevent dry skin. Using mild, fragrance-free soaps and avoiding harsh detergents or fabric softeners can also help prevent skin irritation. Finally, applying a moisturizer after bathing or showering can help keep the skin hydrated and prevent itching.

Conclusion

Itchy skin is a typical response to kidney disease that can seriously affect one's quality of life. This reaction is caused by waste buildup in the bloodstream, as well as certain drugs used to treat this disorder. Thankfully, there are treatments available to help manage itchy skin and include pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic options. Healthcare providers must take into account the potential mental health implications for patients with itchy skin due to their kidney disease, thus necessitating an inclusive treatment plan for optimum care.

In order to avoid itchy skin due to kidney disease, there are a few proactive steps that can be taken. By keeping blood sugar levels in check, avoiding certain drugs and medicines, and making the right lifestyle choices, patients with kidney disease have a greater chance of reducing their pain symptoms. Communication between the patient and healthcare provider is essential when managing this condition- ensure your doctor knows all relevant details about how you're feeling so they can provide an appropriate treatment plan for maximum relief. Taking these preventative steps will not only improve quality of life but also result in improved overall well-being for those living with kidney disease!


The information provided on kidneyconversations.info is intended for general informational and educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard or delay seeking professional medical advice or treatment because of something you have read on kidneyconversations.info.


The website's content is not intended to be used as medical advice or to replace consultation with a qualified healthcare professional. The website's owners and authors are not responsible for any possible consequences from any treatment, action, or application of medication, supplement, or any other treatment discussed on this website. Always speak with your healthcare provider before starting any new treatment, making changes to your treatment plan, or if you have any questions or concerns about your health.


Citations


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  • National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2021). Kidney Disease Statistics for the United States. Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/kidney-disease

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