Multiple Sclerosis Community
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Avatar universal

Itching and MS

One of my very worst symptoms is itching.  When it strikes, I want to tear my skin off.  It sorta feels like explosions in my skin.  Ice sometimes helps, but not much else does.  In July the itching was so bad I took myself to the ER and was hospitalized overnight.  

Does anyone else have this problem?  
31 Responses
572651 tn?1530999357
I get horribly itchy shins but I attribute that to dry skin in the winter months.  If someone here has that problem I know they will be adding to your conversation.  
Just wanted to drop through and tell you welcome to the MS forum.  I hope you will come aroud often and when you feel comfortable, share you story.  

My best, Lulu
648910 tn?1290663083
Welcome.  I have had itching but only when I overheat.  I try not to overheat anymore.  It was always during the summer when I would be working outdoors.  The only thing that helped it was to go inside and cool off.  This was before MS was ever a thought.  I love it outside in the summer and will find any excuse to be there.  I guess this year I will know better.

Looking forward to getting to know you.

147426 tn?1317265632
Yes, I don't have it, but itching is well-known to be one of the most intolerable of the paresthesias caused by MS.  I would think that one of the meds used for the other kinds of paresthsias might be useful for this, like neurontin (gabapentin), Lyrica, carbamazepine, etc.

You can read the Health Page (see the upper right hand corner and click on Health Pages).  Read the article called Paresthesias - Things that go Buzz in the Night.

Generally putting things on the skin will not work, because the skin condition is not the cause of the itching.  It is faulty brain signals.  

To be through it wouldn't hurt to be seen by a dermatologist to rule out a treatable skin condition.  If none is found, then have your neurologist treat it as a paresthesia.  If that happens also read the Health Page on Treating Nerve (Neuropathic) Pain.

Be careful not to get overheated.  If this is a paresthesia, then getting hot (like a hot shower) can make it worse.

Yes, paroxysmal (sudden bouts of) itching are well-known in MS.

Avatar universal
I was just diagnosed w MS in JULY- but I have had itching really bad lately. I didn't know that had anything to do w MS....I went to a local dr. I told them I had just been diagnosed w MS and had started taking some new meds-I thought it may ba an allergic reaction to them....she told me it was SCABIES-----WHAT??-----I am way too clean for that. I have 4 kids-why don't they have this?? She said it was like lice-anyone can get them... I didn't think it was Scabies....now I read this..??   Sounds more possible. And Scabies are usually between your fingers-mine is not.  Tell me @ the itching please....does it leave red bumps? Is it all over or just certain parts? Mine is the worst right under my breats and on my bottom.  It is very annoying...I wake up at night itching & scratching!!
147426 tn?1317265632
The itching of MS would/could be any nerve or nerves that are affected by an MS lesion.  So, generally it would not be all over.  

The "itching" of MS would not show bumps, BUT any time you have scratched an area enough you will raise a rash or bumps from the trauma to the skin of scratching.

Certain meds have itching as a normal side effect - not indicating an allergy.  Narcotics like Vicodin - can have this, but generally the itching is not intolerable.

Scabies can be contracted by anyone!  It does not indicate you are unclean.  If the dermatologist really thinks it is scabies you have two choices.  Do the one night therapy or have her biopsy on of the sites to see if he/she finds the mite in the lump.

Itching can be hard to diagnose.  But, my post above was to confirm that bouts of itching can be because of MS also.

Avatar universal
I've beeen going nuts with itching on my shins right at the ankles. Left is far worse than right. I have now done what Quix mentions and scratched so much it has created its own problems, so now not sure what's causing what. It's not dry skin since I goop on lotion every day.

I have some Benadryl spray, which I will use faithfully for at least a week, doing my best not to touch the areas otherwise. If the skin then has stopped looking inflammed from scratching, etc., and I'm still going bonkers, time to conclude something else is at the bottom of things. Maybe creeping crud, who knows. Or jungle rot.

620048 tn?1358018235
I have itching also and was just going to start a thread about it. Its happened on and iff for a long time..like over a year or more.  But I also have welts with it, and they start at the same time so they are not caused from the scratching.  A lot of times its starts om my butt (cheeks) ali=ong with the welts.  But I also itch all over...anywhere and everywhere.  Drives me crazy.  I take benedryl for it, seems to work but not always..  the spray might be good for it.  Have n idea what its from.

620048 tn?1358018235
oops, i also get itching without the welts..

648910 tn?1290663083
Meg, I have itching with welts that have nothing to do with the kind of itching I got when I was overheated.  The itching I have now comes with welts. If you look up skin writing you will see what I am talking about.  The welts only appear where the skin is in contact with something.  I now take claritin every day.  I tried to stop taking it a couple of weeks ago and for about a week I was okay.  Then I was sitting here typing, my arms rest on the edge of the desk, and behold they returned...right where I was making contact.  Now I don't know if this has anything to do with MS.  I truly doubt that it does because the itching without the welts was totally different.  It mostly effected my scalp and arms, with no welts.  It would also go away as soon as I cooled down.  If you are having welts I would suggest you see your GP.

147426 tn?1317265632
The itch that rashes

I just want to mention the "Winter Itch" problem.  As it gets colder we all wear more tightly fitting clothing that is typically very moisture absorbent.  This fabric ***** moisture out of our skin.  That combined with the forced air or wood heat heating systems drys out our skin.

Dry skin itches.

Once we have scratched enough to raise a rash sometimes it takes more than moisturizers to solve the problem.  If it is too inflamed or if we are prone to eczema, we may need a presription strength steroid cream to calm it down.

Common places for winter itch

wrists  - long sleeve knit shirts with cuffs

elbows - same

panty/short lines where they are tight


ankles - from crew or ankle socks

hands and faces exposed to very dry cold air and frequent washing.


Itching with welts usually happens with people who are generally allergic or prone to eczema.

Peeople who take narcotic meds like Vicodin need to know that they are "histamine-releasers."  It is very common to have all over itching after each or most doses.  This is not an allergy.  This is not to be confused with severe blotching, welts, hives and signs of true allergy.

Carry on.

147426 tn?1317265632
Forgot something.  If the rashes we have scratched up are reddened and have cracks or fissures, then they are possibly mildly infected (usually with the Staph germ) and may need a brief course of oral antibiotics to clear up.  This happens frequently with eczema.
695000 tn?1316136048
Hello.  I have itching too and I always thought it was because of dry skin & eating sugary snacks.  But now I remember that a friend of mine who also has MS used to have really bad case of itiching.  He used to get accupunture treatments for it and also his doctor gave him some chinese herbs & teas that really helped him.  He was much better last time I talked to him which was a long while ago.
I also think if you reduce your amount of sugar intake, it would help you.  It helps me.  But what do I know?!
620048 tn?1358018235
My welts are strange, i always thought that most my itching was from dry skin and my body cream helps that a lot.  But at times i have the itching and also the welts and they itch and they itch too.  They are large welts but not sores.They also dont last long, sometimes they are gone the next even.

I do eat a lot of sugar now too.
710547 tn?1295446030
Yes, Yes, Yes - I itch!  And it can be one of the worst symptoms ever.  When I was dx with erythromelalgia, instead of the usual burning pain, I got a burning itch.  For those who don't know about this rare disease - most people - it is a vasospastic disorder that is kind of the opposite of Raynauds, which I also have.  The vessels open and stay open causing the blood to pool in the hands and feet.  They get hot, red, and swollen, and itch.  The itching is very very very bad and the only way I could relieve it is with cold.  I used to sleep with my feet in a bucket of ice water.  Sometimes, even out the door during snowy months so they could be in the snow.  It ruined my life for several years and I even contemplated amputation.  Well, it got better and is manageable, but now I have itching that's different.  It's still in my hands and feet mostly, but not just the circumscribed areas.  Scratching doesn't help of course, yet I can't help it.  It seems to at least make me feel like I'm doing SOMETHING.  I agree with you, Quix, cooling is the best thing.  I keep a cold cloth by my bed to cool the itching areas during the night.  When you're in public is the worst.  I've gotten ice cubes and rubbed them on me even when I'm in church!  I can't say that I'm always socially acceptable!   We need portable cooling pads - like the heating ones- but it would be so expensive I'm sure.  Sometimes menthol products can cool you enough to help   Jan
Avatar universal
The itching is one of the symptoms that led me to think I may have MS.  I'm still undx, but this is one of the worse things!

Mine started with the right foot and would itch off and on then go away for awhile. Then the itching started in my hands, but not as bad as that foot!

Now it is both hands, both feet and sometimes when it's really bad I will itch almost up to my knees.

Nothing helps, that I have found, but I haven't been on any of the drugs scripted for this.  I just grit my teeth and try my best not to scratch.....hahaha

My itching starts out of the blue, but many times it is after I've gotten overheated.  And yes summer is the worse time for mine, I guess cause you can't help but be too warm at times during this season.

285045 tn?1253641328
Mine is the exact same as yours Doni.
One foot will start itching just out of the blue, so bad I cringe and
rub it trying not to scratch. Then just a few minutes later the other foot
joins in!  It is a burning itch for me. Really intense. It also affects the palms of my
hands or thighs!  It will go away as quickly as it starts. There are no bumps, no redness, no rash at all.
Do any of you get a phantom itch?  An itch on your leg but you can't find it?  So you scratch the whole leg looking for relief!!!!  I have had it several times and just figure I am looney!!!
I am not Dx'd but probable.
Avatar universal
WOW!  So many of you also have this itching.....plus it sounds like there's other kinds of itching going on too...  I can't say that my itches are ever phantom, Cyn, as it rather feels like explosions under my skin once it gets going good.  My itching is mostly on my arms between elbow and wrist, but can and do pop up anywhere...especially once they get started.  Ice helps a lot, so does cool water--and like you noted, Quix, putting creams, etc on the skin don't work.  My last really bad bout was this summer, but there doesn't seem to be a direct get hot-start itching relationship.  I work in an air conditioned office and have a small fan that I use also, so I wasn't overheated and all of a sudden, there it'd be.  I love to work in my garden and wear a cooling vest during the summer if I go out, so I'm good about watching the overheating.  I'm sure the heat makes it worse, but there's not a direct, one-to-one relationship that I've seen.

Quix, you mentioned skin infections.....I do get serious skin infections (not at all surprisingly with the open sores I get when I'm itching) that take heavy-duty antibiotics to clear up.  Not a pretty sight at all......

And, thanks, Quix, for the good information.  We're always the best judge of what's normal and not but unless you have the right words, the medical professionals don't always listen.  So I'm going to write down "paresthesias" and the next time my MS gets a sense of humor and invites the itching for a visit, maybe the MDs will listen better.  

Lookingpast (Robbie)
Avatar universal
I just read that article on paresthesias you recommended and intend to print it out to take to my boss at work.  This summer when the itching was so bad it was hard to explain but everyone could see how painful it was and how much I suffered with it.  Your article will help explain what was going on.  (Did I mention that I work with some wonderful, caring people?)  
147426 tn?1317265632
You warm my heart!  When I write those articles I always imagine that they will fulfill some purpose for someone.  That it will cause one of those "Ah ha!" moments.  Or that it will be something they will want to refer to.


690549 tn?1288882721
Oh, Quix--You do such good here to verify what people are feeling and why! I went literally years (30+) on my own just telling myself that what I was feeling was because of the MS--because what else could it be? My neuro was NO help in affirming most anything. Over the years my best advice about itching is :Don't allow yourself to get started scratching---ever! And yes, ice and iced products just lain on the areas do sometimes break the cycle. Now they have products such as BioFreeze (can be ordered on the Internet) which use a cold technique and deaden the areas using a salve, rollon or spray--wonderful! Jane in Indiana dignosed in 1973
Avatar universal
MS diagnosis in 1998. In that yr. started seeing small "holes" in my skin with blood visible. Since that time this has gotten progressively worse. I have lumps under my skin that are movable...feels there is something underneath that has to be released.  The itching is constant.  With all the scratching I've caused my skin to bleed.  I am awakened by the intense itiching.  It started on my right arm; later I had itching on my left arm and both shoulders.  I have used anti itching products and also clindamycin and fluocinonide as prescribed by a dermatologist 2 yrs. ago.  This seems to help, but I haven't been able to apply as many times per day as prescribed.  My skin seems to be getting very thick, discolored, and from the scratching has many small scabs.  My skin seems so thin that the slightest scratching breaks it open and causes bleeding. I'm 74 yrs. old and am having many new symptoms such as reddening and burning under the skin of my legs. I know that some things come with aging, but do not think the intense scratching is related to aging. I believe it is due to the progression of my MS. .
Avatar universal
I was diagnosed in March.  Lately, I have horrible itching.  My head, neck, shoulders.  Seems to be just my torso.  Anyway, my doctor didn't even know that itching was a symtom of MS.  I am now looking for a new doctor.  I was taking an alergy pill every night, but it isn't working.  One website said to take gabapentin, but I am taking that and I still get itchy.  Not every day, it has happened 3-4 times.  When I go to a new doctor, I will see what he says.  I need something, the itch is so bad I can be in tears.  
Avatar universal
I too have itching on my hands, thighs, & feet. Have had it for several years now, but the one place that drives me totally nuts is the itching on the back of my head. I would drive my family nuts asking them to check me for head lice! So glad to find out that others have this problem, can't wait to share this with my family.!  
Hang in all!
Take care
4165874 tn?1350504458
I hear ya! I was dx 4 years ago with MS and up until now I havent had any issue with the itching.
Now its driving me insane.. I have been trying to figure it all out.. it starts with a kinda heat, then an intense itch! Scratching only makes it itch more!!
I surely thought I was going mad! I am glad I have friends out there scratching the good scratch!
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