Itchy skin on the back is a common problem. Cracking and inflammation may occur, which is uncomfortable and sometimes painful. Understanding the underlying cause of itchy upper-back skin and choosing the appropriate treatment option will assist in controlling this skin issue.
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Dry skin is one of the most common causes of itchy back skin, states MayoClinic.com. Itchiness may get worse during seasonal changes, when humidity levels fluctuate. Other causes of itchy skin that are less common include disease and allergic reactions. If you suspect allergies, your doctor can refer you to an allergy specialist to determine if food sensitivity is to blame for the reaction. Your doctor also may want to evaluate your itchy upper back to rule out internal disease. Liver disease, celiac disease, iron deficiency and thyroid issues may cause itchy skin on the back, according to MayoClinic.com.
If itchy upper-back skin is caused by dry skin, moisturize the skin daily. Use moisturizer after getting out of the bath or shower to lock moisture in place. Taking an oral antihistamine and applying corticosteroid cream to skin on the upper back can reduce inflammation and itchiness, according to MayoClinic.com. A cool bath containing baking soda and oatmeal also soothes skin. You can apply cold compresses to the upper back to soothe skin as well. Avoid scratching the area, which can increase the risk for infection.
Adding humidity to the air can assist with dry and irritated back skin. Humidifiers can be purchased at most local drugstores. Change water frequently to avoid bacteria buildup in the air. When you take a shower, close the bathroom door. This will trap humid air inside the bathroom and assist in adding moisture to the upper back. Also, wear sunscreen daily. Wearing sunscreen can prevent the upper back from increased dryness, irritation and sun damage. Choose a broad-spectrum product with an SPF of at least 30, recommends the American Academy of Dermatology.
Wear natural fibers such as cotton, which allows skin to breathe. Avoid wearing rough materials such as wool against your skin. Fabrics treated with irritating chemicals such as formaldehyde may cause itchy skin on the upper back due to prolonged friction of the fabric on the back of the neck as well as sweating in the neck area. Formaldehyde is generally used in fabrics with anti-cling, anti-wrinkle and anti-shrink finishes. To minimize your exposure to formaldehyde, machine wash new shirts, scarves and other clothing items that rub against your neck several times in hot, soapy water, advises DermNetNZ.org.
Itchy upper back skin may be caused by an allergic reaction to medications. If you take medications, talk with your doctor. Drugs that commonly cause this issue include antibiotics, narcotic pain medications and antifungal medications, according to MayoClinic.com. If itchy skin on the upper back is a side effect, your doctor may want to prescribe a different medication to relieve symptoms.