The abdomen is often referred to as the stomach although the stomach is technically a digestive organ in the upper part of the abdominal cavity. Like any part of the body, the skin over the abdomen may be itchy at times, either with or without a rash. This itching can occur for various reasons and is usually not a problem unless it is severe, intensifying and persistent, especially if there is a rash that is present.
Why does the stomach itch?
Itch receptors are present on the skin surface and internal organs do not experience any itching sensations. Itching is believed to be a mechanism to alert the body of an impending danger. When we scratch an area, we may then remove the physically remove the threat or at least become aware of the potential for tissue damage. This is a normal protective mechanism.
However, sometimes itching occurs when the skin is irritated or inflamed. Depending on the underlying cause, the itching can persist and not ease with scratching. In some cases, a person may experience such intense itching that vigorous scratching damages the skin and even causes bleeding. Itching is a symptom of a disease and the underlying disease has to be treated for the itching to resolve.
Causes of Itchy Abdomen
The skin over the abdomen is equally prone to itching as skin elsewhere on the body. Therefore the same causes of itching skin at any other part of the body may also apply to the skin. There are a few cases where the abdominal skin may itch for specific reasons that do not affect other parts of the body, like when the skin is stretched due to the expanding uterus in pregnancy.
Daily bathing ensures that sweat, skin oil, dead skin cells, microbes on the skin surface and dust from the environment is removed regularly. These substances can act as skin irritants and ultimately lead to itching if a person does not bathe on a frequent basis. However, the soap and water used for bathing can also be irritants if not removed and dried thoroughly during bathing.
Dryness of the skin is one of the common causes of itching. It can occur anywhere on the body or may be isolated to one area only. The dryness may occur for a number of reasons, including a dry climate, sunburn, antibacterial soaps, excessive bathing, chlorinated water, dehydration, chaffing and so on. It is easily remedied by the use of an appropriate moisturizer. Sometimes skin dryness occurs as a symptom of some underlying skin disease.
Read more on dry skin moisturizer.
Excessive sweating is another potential cause of skin irritation which can lead to itching. This may occur for various reasons. Being in a hot climate and using inappropriately warm clothing may stimulate sweating which is a mechanism to help cool the body. However, some people are prone to sweating excessively and this is known as hyperhidrosis. It seems to be linked to an overactivity of the nervous system that controls the amount of sweat produced by the skin.
Contact dermatitis is a common skin condition caused by exposure to certain substances. These substances may either act as irritants or allergens to trigger an inflammatory reaction in the skin. Common irritants include sweat, water, soap and clothing. Allergens are other harmless substances that trigger an immune reaction in people who are allergic (hypersenstive). These substances include latex, nickel, dyes, adhesives and fragrances. The skin typically appears red, dry amd rough with itching and sometimes a burning sensation.
Read more on contact dermatitis.
Shingles is a condition caused by the chickenpox virus (varicella zoster virus) which can be reactivated years and even deacades after the chickenpox infection. The virus stays dormant in the nervous system and eventully reativates in some people. The exact cause for this reactivation is unknown but it is believed that a weakened immune system allows for this to occur. Pain, burning, tenderness, numbness, tingling and itching occurs on certain areas of the torso along with a red rash and fluid-filled blisters.
Itching of the abdomen affects some women during pregnancy. It is believed that this is due to stretching of the skin as the uterus expands in the second and third trimester in particular. Although the skin has the ability to stretch, this stretching can be a problem if it occurs over a short period of time and if there is excessive stretching. However, the itching may also be linked to other physiologic changes in the body due to pregnancy.
Other Skin Diseases
- Atopic dermatitis
- Drug reaction
- Fungal skin infections (dermaomycosis and sometimes candidiasis)
- Hives (urticaria)
- Liver disease
- Kidney failure
Treatment of Itchy Stomach
The treatment for an itchy stomach (abdomen) depends on the underlying cause. This may require either topical applications or oral medication. Some of the options include:
- Emollients to hydrate and soothe the skin.
- Urea creams for softening and soothing the skin.
- Corticosteroids to reduce inflammation.
- Antimicrobial ointments for bacterial infections.
- Antihistamines to reduce allergic reactions and ease itching.
- Antibiotics to treat bacterial infections.
Preventing an Itchy Abdomen
A few simple measures may also help to ease itching of the abdomen, especially when an exact cause cannot be identified. These measures may also be useful to prevent episodes of itching.
- Bathe daily or even twice daily. Ensure that the water is not very hot and that the soap used is mild. Preferably fragrance free soaps should be used or any soap deemed suitable for infants.
- Dry the skin thoroughly after bathing and moisturize the abdomen. Use a fragrance free, hypoallergenic application. If the skin is damaged, then a barrier cream should also be applied to protect the skin.
- Use suitable sun protection on the abdomen when exposed to intense sunlight. It is important to remember that ultraviolet light can penetrate clothing.
- Avoid using tight clothing that may rub against the skin on the abdomen and cause chaffing. Lighter fabrics ae also advisable in hot environments.
Always consult with a medical professional is there is rash or the itching is severe, persisting or worsening.