Pruritus, or itchy skin, is one of the most common skin complaints of older adults. The itching itself may be related to xerosis, a drug side effect or a symptom of another problem, such as eczema or shingles.

Determining the cause of the itching is important. Itchy skin without a rash may signal an underlying condition such as iron deficiency, lymphoma or problems with thyroid, liver or kidney function.

A hypoallergenic lubricating lotion may relieve itching. A lotion that contains menthol, camphor or phenol may provide relief in the form of a cooling sensation. Your doctor may prescribe a topical agent with corticosteroids or lidocaine (a local anesthetic). More severe cases may require short-term antihistamines.

Source: Prepared by the Editors of The Johns Hopkins Medical Letter: Health After 50

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 29 Jul 2013

Last Modified: 29 Jul 2013