Itchy chest: rash, causes, treatment
Itching, also called pruritus, is defined as an uncomfortable tingling sensation on the surface of the skin.
The tingling sensation is often relieved when the area is scraped. Scratching an itch can bring relief; however, too much scratching can also damage the overlying skin. An itch on the chest can have many potential causes, from dry skin to insect bites.
Although itchy chest is not an emergency, if you notice any serious symptoms, such as difficulty breathing or chest pain, you should seek emergency medical attention as these symptoms can be serious. In this article, learn about the potential symptoms, causes, and available treatments for itchy chest.
Besides itching, common symptoms of an itchy upper torso are changes around the skin where the itching sensation occurs, including:
- Redness in the skin
- Rash or dry skin
- Discoloration (brown, black or blue) of the skin
- Raised patches or patches on the skin
- Hives or blisters
- Hair loss
There are several potential causes of itching, ranging from irritation and dryness to allergic reactions and infections.
The most common causes of an itchy breast are detailed below.
Allergic reactions can frequently cause itching and rashes.
There are many potential triggers for an allergic reaction that can cause your chest to itch. These range from laundry detergents and fabrics to shampoos and body washes. If you feel you are having an allergic reaction, see a doctor as soon as possible to determine the cause.
Dry skin and rash
Extremely dry and damaged skin can cause discomfort and itchiness. In some cases, the skin may form a rash in which the skin becomes discolored.
There are many causes of rashes; some of the most common are sunburn and contact dermatitis, which result from skin coming into contact with material that irritates it.
If you have sunburned your chest or have recently suffered other damage to the skin’s surface, your skin may become dry and uncomfortable. Ensuring the skin is healthy and well moisturized with creams or aloe vera can help reduce dryness and the itchy feeling.
A viral infection known as shingles or shingles is a common cause of itchy chest, especially if you are over 50.
The rash and itching associated with shingles is extremely uncomfortable and sometimes painful. Shingles is caused by the reactivation of the varicella virus (varicella zoster).
As you get older, you are more at risk of developing shingles, even if you have already been vaccinated or infected with shingles. As a result, vaccines such as the Shingrix vaccine (herpes zoster vaccine) are used to prevent the development of shingles.
Insect bites from mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, ants, and even spiders can all cause an itchy feeling on your chest. The most common bites are from mosquitoes and ticks, especially if you have been outdoors for long periods of time.
The itching and inflammation caused by an insect bite usually goes away after a few days, although severe cases may require treatment.
Psoriasis is a skin condition that can cause itching on the skin. Psoriasis most commonly affects the surfaces of the hands, elbows, and feet, but can also affect the chest.
The skin becomes inflamed and irritated with psoriasis, resulting in an itchy feeling. Specific treatments are necessary for psoriasis to limit the itching and reduce the size of the affected surfaces.
Skin infections can usually cause rashes and raised areas on the skin. The most common infections are fungal infections which can lead to itching and burning sensations on the surface of the skin. Also, if you have had recent surgery, such as open-heart surgery, lung surgery, or any procedure near the chest, there is a risk of an infection developing near the incision site.
These infections are known as surgical site infections and are serious and should prompt you to see your healthcare provider immediately.
Treatment for an itchy chest is based on the potential underlying cause. For example, if you have an allergic reaction, allergy medications may be needed. Likewise, insect bites and fungal skin infections can benefit from topical ointments.
There are many anti-itch creams available over the counter and with a prescription from a healthcare professional. Some common medications used to treat itchy chest are:
How to deal with an itchy chest
To deal with itchy chest, you can try some of these practices that help with dry skin:
- Apply moisturizer after bath or shower.
- Keep your home humidified, especially during the winter months.
- Avoid using detergents or shampoos on the itchy areas.
- Avoid wearing harsh fabrics like wool and other topical irritants.
When to See a Health Care Provider
If you experience frequent itching for days or even weeks, you should see your health care provider. Many health care providers have experience treating rashes and skin infections, and many treatments are available.
There are many possible causes of itchy chest. Determining the reason for your itchy chest will help you identify a treatment that will give you some relief.
A word from Verywell
An itchy chest is an uncomfortable feeling with many potential causes. Working with a health care provider can help find the right treatments available.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does it mean if you have itchy skin all over your body?
Itching is usually localized to one area of the body. If you experience itching all over your body, internal issues may need to be evaluated. Certain conditions such as liver disease, kidney disease, blood disorders, and even cancers can all cause an itchy feeling throughout the body.