Causes of itching breasts
The following are possible causes of itchy breasts, in no particular order.
1. Paget's Disease of the breast - This usually causes eczema (with itching) of the nipple and areola when there is underlying breast cancer. Sometimes the breast cancer may not be visible on a mammography or you may not feel a lump. This condition will require a biopsy. So if you have a family history of breast cancer or are elderly, you should visit your doctor when you have itching and redness around the nipples and areola so that any underlying breast cancer can be ruled out.
2. Causes of itching in general (not just limited to breasts).
For diseases of the skin, the causes could be xerosis (drying of skin), psoriasis (a scaling skin disorder), skin infections, and cutaneous lymphoma (lymphoma of the skin), eczema, contact dermatitis (because of bras or detergents), fungal infections, hive, scabies, and blistering skin disorders.
Generalized systemic diseases that may cause itching include chronic liver disease, chronic kidney disease, cancers of the blood cells, and any other cancer. Some medicines could cause itching, cholestasis (any disorder causing non-drainage of bile from liver to intestines).
Neurological diseases that may cause itching include Brachioradial pruiritus - itching present in the inside of the forearm, usually thought to be caused by an impingement of nerve in the place where it exits in the neck vertebra.
Notalgia parasthetica - itching because of nerve involvement. This usually involves the upper back.
Postherpetic neuralgia - itching associated in the area after shingles.
Psychogenic itches can occur in the setting of psychiatric illness. In one study, 42 out of 100 patients were found to have this. Psychologic stress could be associated with the development of itch. In one study of 68 patients with psychogenic itch, 90 percent described a conflict or stressor preceding the onset of itch. Another study found out that self-reported depression or bipolar disorder was more common in people who had psychogenic itch than normal people.
Delusional parasitosis is a psychiatric disorder characterized by the patient's belief that they are suffering from a parasitic infection.
Because of the fact that in people whose itch cannot be explained by any cause, there is a likelihood that it could have a psychiatric cause. Therefore, doctors are advised to look for these in these kind of patients.
In people whose itch is because of a non-psychiatric cause, the itch might increase in severity when there is a psychological factor. In one study that wanted to explore the impact of emotional states on itching, it was found that itching was greater when the subjects were exposed to a film that elicited negative emotions than to a film that elicited positive emotions.
Age - Dry skin could be a problem in the elderly. Sometimes elderly could be having itch that is unexplained. There was a study done in 302 elderly patients in Mexican nursing homes. One in every four of them had a chronic itch of which 70 percent had xerosis (dryness) and a fourth of them had an itch-related disease of the skin.
Burns and scars - these may cause significant itch.
Sex - Women are more likely to report sensations of stinging, warmth and burning or pain associated with itch than men and men were more likely to have chronic itch related to skin disease or generalized systemic disease.
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