Author Topic: itchy back without rash  (Read 34149 times)

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Offline john60

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itchy back without rash
« on: Saturday January 17, 2004, 07:59:07 AM »
Hi, Im a new member. I am also a person who was tremendously pleased to find your website, not only due to the quality of information I have observed on it so far but also because at long last I feel I have found some people I can talk to about a problem that is causing me considerable discomfort & concern.

As a new member I am hoping that someone out there may be able to point me in a direction where I might find a cure or at least a way of obtaining positive relief from my itchy back problem.

For about 2 years I have been suffering with an itch, without a rash, over most of my back (between my waist & my shoulders) plus a small amount in the center of my chest. The overall intensity of this itch has increased over time to a point where it is currently waking me up at night when the attack is at its worst.
Attacks usually last 4 to 6 days and while they are getting more intense over the years, the severity fluctuates considerably during each of these 4 to 6 day periods, from almost non-existent to almost unbearable.
These fluctuations make it difficult to identify what, if anything helps to relieve the itch. The itch is always the worst during late afternoon and evening and usually least during the early part of the day

A little over 12 mths ago I was diagnosed by a Dermatologist as having Notalgia paraesthetica. He diagnosed this without looking at my back which wasnt itchy at the time anyway. The Derma told me there was no cure and prescribed me a menthol cream to rub on to give short term (3 to 4 hr most times) relief during attacks.

Over the years I have tried many things to stop the itching, these have included:
1. All sorts of things to bath/shower with, e.g. different soaps and lotions, including moisturizers, anti-fungus lotions etc
2. washing powders for my clothes.
3. tried treating the itch with various creams.
4. anti-histamines (avil & phenergan)
5. acupuncture, following the guidelines mentioned on a web site in Great Briton.

All have been to no avail.

I am about 98% certain that I have found the trigger that sets my itch off. Whether it is the only one Im cant be sure, however I am positive that each of the 5 attacks I have had since the end of last September have been triggered by me perspiring profusely.
To explain further:

I live in sub-tropical Queensland in Australia. During our cooler months April to September I had no itch at all. Then in late September we had 3-4days of  (unseasonal) extremely hot and humid weather.
I was working in  poorly ventilated area during the first day of this hot spell during which time I was sweating profusely. After I arrived home early that evening my back started to itch, as the evening went on the itch increased to an almost unbearable level, it then continued for about 4-5 days, at fluctuating degrees of intensity.

Since September we have had another four periods of 3-5 day of very hot
and very humid weather. On each occasion I have been in a situation where I
have perspired profusely on the first day of these hot spells and then
almost like clock work, that evening, my back starts itching. The itching
then usually lasts a day or so after the very hot weather finishes.

Over the last 4 months my itchy back has only occurred and started in the evenings of these days that I have perspired profusely.

 I have another appointment to see a Dermatologist next month, because bookings are
 4 mths out it is hard to know if the itch will be there when the appointment takes place.

From the information I read about notalgia paraesthetica, the itch is supposed to be due to nerves being pinched by muscles near where the nerves exit from the spine. As a layman I find it difficult to understand if this is so, how then can perspiration trigger the itch.

A friend of mine has suggested that if my itch is related to nerves and/or nerve endings maybe it would be more appropriate for me to see a neurologist instead a dermatologist.

Any views?

John_h      :)
« Last Edit: Saturday January 17, 2004, 08:05:59 AM by peterb »


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Re:itchy back without rash
« Reply #1 on: Saturday January 17, 2004, 10:55:08 AM »
 :hi: John

A big welcome to skincell.  The best is to see a Derm and get an accurate diagnosis.  That way you know how to tackle the condition.  Below I have put a list of possible conditions involving itching.


Itching is an intense, distracting irritation or tickling sensation that may be felt all over the skin's surface, or confined to just one area. The medical term for itching is "pruritus."


Itching instinctively leads most people to scratch the affected area. Different people can tolerate different amounts of itching, and anyone's threshold of tolerance can be changed due to stress, emotions, and other factors. In general, itching is more severe if the skin is warm, and if there are few distractions. This is why people tend to notice itching more at night.

Causes and symptoms

The reason for the sensation of itching is not well understood. While itching is the most noticeable symptom in many skin diseases, but it doesn't necessary mean that a person who feels itchy has a disease.

Stress and emotional upset can make itching worse, no matter what the underlying cause. If emotional problems are the primary reason for the itch, the condition is known as psychogenic itching. Some people become convinced that their itch is caused by a parasite; this conviction is often linked to burning sensations in the tongue, and may be caused by a major psychiatric disorder.

Generalized itching

Itching that occurs all over the body may indicate a medical condition such as diabetes mellitus, liver disease, kidney failure, jaundice, thyroid disorders (and rarely, cancer). Blood disorders such as leukemia, and lymphatic conditions such as Hodgkin's disease may sometimes cause itching as well.

Some people may develop an itch without a rash when they take certain drugs (such as aspirin, codeine, cocaine); others may develop an itchy red "drug rash" or hives because of an allergy to a specific drug.

Itching also may be caused when any of the family of hookworm larvae penetrate the skin. This includes swimmer's itch and creeping eruption caused by cat or dog hookworm, and ground itch caused by the "true" hookworm.

Many skin conditions cause an itchy rash. These include:

Atopic dermatitis


Contact dermatitis

Dermatitis herpetiformis (occasionally)


Fungus infections (such as athlete's foot)

Hives (urticaria)

Insect bites


Lichen planus

Neurodermatitis (lichen simplex chronicus)

Psoriasis (occasionally)


On the other hand, itching all over the body can be caused by something as simple as bathing too often, which removes the skins natural oils and may make the skin too dry and scaly.

Localized itching

Specific itchy areas may occur if a person comes in contact with soap, detergents, and wool or other rough-textured, scratchy material. Adults who have hemorrhoids, anal fissure, or persistent diarrhea may notice itching around the anus (called "pruritus ani"). In children, itching in this area is most likely due to worms.

Intense itching in the external genitalia in women ("pruritus vulvae") may be due to candidiasis, hormonal changes, or the use of certain spermicides or vaginal suppositories, ointments, or deodorants.

It's also common for older people to suffer from dry, itchy skin (especially on the back) for no obvious reason. Younger people also may notice dry, itchy skin in cold weather. Itching is also a common complaint during pregnancy.


Itching is a symptom that is quite obvious to its victim. Someone who itches all over should seek medical care. Because itching can be caused by such a wide variety of triggers, a complete physical exam and medical history will help diagnose the underlying problem. A variety of blood and stool tests may help determine the underlying cause.


Antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) can help relieve itching caused by hives, but won't affect itching from other causes. Most antihistamines also make people sleepy, which can help patients sleep who would otherwise be awake from the itch.

Specific treatment of itching depends on the underlying condition that causes it. In general, itchy skin should be treated very gently. While scratching may temporarily ease the itch, in the long run scratching just makes it worse. In addition, scratching can lead to an endless cycle of itch--scratch--more itching.

To avoid the urge to scratch, a person can apply a cooling or soothing lotion or cold compress when the urge to scratch occurs. Soaps are often irritating to the skin, and can make an itch worse; they should be avoided, or used only when necessary.

Creams or ointments containing cortisone may help control the itch from insect bites, contact dermatitis or eczema. Cortisone cream should not be applied to the face unless a doctor prescribes it.

Probably the most common cause of itching is dry skin. There are a number of simple things a person can do to ease the annoying itch:

Don't wear tight clothes

Avoid synthetic fabrics

Don't take long baths

Wash the area in lukewarm water with a little baking soda

For generalized itching, take a lukewarm shower

Try a lukewarm oatmeal (or Aveeno) bath for generalized itching

Apply bath oil or lotion (without added colors or scents) right after bathing.

People who itch as a result of mental problems or stress should seek help from a mental health expert.


Most cases of itching go away when the underlying cause is treated successfully.


There are certain things people can do to avoid itchy skin. Patients who tend toward itchy skin should:

Avoid a daily bath

Use only lukewarm water when bathing

Use only gentle soap

Pat dry, not rub dry, after bathing, leaving a bit of water on the skin

Apply a moisture-holding ointment or cream after the bath

Use a humidifier in the home.

Patients who are allergic to certain substances, medications, and so on can avoid the resulting itch if they avoid contact with the allergen. Avoiding insect bites, bee stings, poison ivy and so on can prevent the resulting itch. Treating sensitive skin carefully, avoiding overdrying of the skin, and protecting against diseases that cause itchy rashes are all good ways to avoid itching.

Key Terms

Atopic dermatitis
An intensely itchy inflammation often found on the face of people prone to allergies. In infants and early childhood, it's called infantile eczema.

Creeping eruption
Itchy irregular, wandering red lines on the foot made by burrowing larvae of the hookworm family and some roundworms.

Dermatitis herpetiformis
A chronic very itchy skin disease with groups of red lesions that leave spots behind when they heal. It is sometimes associated with cancer of an internal organ.

A superficial type of inflammation of the skin that may be very itchy and weeping in the early stages; later, the affected skin becomes crusted, scaly, and thick. There is no known cause.

Hodgkin's disease
A type of cancer characterized by a slowly-enlarging lymph tissue; symptoms include generalized itching.

Lichen planus
A noncancerous, chronic itchy skin disease that causes small, flat purple plaques on wrists, forearm, ankles.

An itchy skin disease (also called lichen simplex chronicus) found in nervous, anxious people.

A common, chronic skin disorder that causes red patches anywhere on the body. Occasionally, the lesions may itch.

A contagious parasitic skin disease characterized by intense itching.

Swimmer's itch
An allergic skin inflammation caused by a sensitivity to flatworms that die under the skin, causing an itchy rash.


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Re:itchy back without rash
« Reply #2 on: Saturday January 17, 2004, 08:46:45 PM »

Welcome to Skincell John!

I am an eczema sufferer and I also experience extreme itchiness when I perspire a lot.  



Offline idil

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Re:itchy back without rash
« Reply #3 on: Saturday January 17, 2004, 09:28:46 PM »

Welcome John

I hope you find relief from the itchiness soon.
"Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds" Shakespeare

Offline Pherstun

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Re:itchy back without rash
« Reply #4 on: Sunday January 18, 2004, 07:27:23 AM »
Hi John, welcome to SkinCell!  :hug: I've not been here long myself and like you have found the site very useful.

I too get an itchy back without rash, more towards the bottom of my back, and like you also have tried different washing powders etc, none of which has helped.  I've had problems on and off since childhood with eczema and always wear cotton next to my skin, but still these problems occur.  

I'm glad you seem to have figured out what yours is caused by, but there doesn't seem to be much of a way to avoid it.  Maybe go to work somewhere with air conditioning?
 "I get knocked down, but I get up again, you're never going to keep me down" (Chumbawamba)

Offline john60

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Re:itchy back without rash
« Reply #5 on: Monday January 19, 2004, 08:11:46 AM »
Thanks for your welcomes and well wishes, your concern and support is comforting.

I am hoping the cotton will give me some improvement, I suppose time will tell.


Offline blondeambition

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Re:itchy back without rash
« Reply #6 on: Wednesday January 21, 2004, 02:13:09 AM »
I have the same symptoms except on my legs. I was told it was nerves, then dry skin. No one seems to know. Welcome to the forum. Lots of great info and people here.

Offline southwind

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Re:itchy back without rash
« Reply #7 on: Friday February 13, 2004, 12:20:47 AM »
My family has had this problem also. Mainly on the legs but for me i get it on the legs and torso. Hot humid conditions are what trigger this condition for me and perspiration is definately a pre cursor. Showereng tends to make it worse also. No doctors seem to want to help with this and it drives me absolutley nuts!

The only cure i have found is to get in front of an air conditioner or even better in the car. The ac dries the air out and seems to relieve the ithcing. My father and sister and brother all think it is something to do with sweating and then letting that sweat dry on your skin. dad always said he got the least trouble after an intense squash game follwoed immediately by a shower .

If you find a cure please please let me know!!!

Offline Val

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Re:itchy back without rash
« Reply #8 on: Friday February 13, 2004, 03:45:53 AM »

:hi: John,

Sorry I'm a little late in welcoming you to our SkinCell cyber family.

Sorry to hear you're having such a hard time finding help for your terrible itching. :hug:

Itching really is something most of us here understands completely, and how it can drive you nuts.

I'm with Peter, going back to see a derm and getting an accurate diagnosis is a must. You really do need to know for sure exactly what you're fighting.

I hope that the cotton does help in the mean time, and also hope you will come in here often and join in with us all around the forum, and keep us updated of course. ;)

Val :hugs:

Offline Val

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Re:itchy back without rash
« Reply #9 on: Friday February 13, 2004, 03:51:17 AM »
:hi: southwind,

Welcome to our SkinCell cyber family to you too. ;D

Sorry to hear you're also having this problem. :hug:

You mention doctors not helping, may I ask have you seen a dermatologist at all?  I ask this because often a general doctor doesn't really know much about skin problems, but as a derm is a skin specialist they do know much more and will often be able to give more help. An accurate diagnosis really is important to know exactly what it is you're fighting. :hug:

I hope you also will join in all around our boards and let us get to know you better. We're a friendly bunch although most of us are a little crazy :crazy:

Val :hugs:

Offline Monika

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Re:itchy back without rash
« Reply #10 on: Friday February 13, 2004, 04:41:32 AM »
Welcome John :hi: