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Dialysis: Dry, Itchy Skin

Have you noticed that your skin is itchy or dry since starting dialysis? If so, you are not alone. Many dialysis patients have these issues. It is called uremic pruritis. Itchy skin is different for everyone, and it can happen at any time of day, on any part of the body, and be a bother for some more than others. Some dialysis patients say they feel itchy in one area, and others feel itchy all over. What’s important is trying to understand what may be causing it and finding the best way to manage it.

What causes dry, itchy skin

A combination of things can cause your skin to be itchy and dry. Some issues are:

  • Limited fluid intake: Your dialysis treatment removes extra water from your body, and your limited fluid intake between treatments can cause dry skin and trigger itchiness.
  • Unmanaged phosphorous:  Often, itching is caused by high blood levels of phosphorus. In your body, extra phosphorus can bind with calcium and lead to feeling itchy. If your healthcare provider has given you phosphate binders, taking them as instructed, and at the same time every day, will help.
  • Not enough dialysis: Talk to your healthcare team about your symptoms and find out if you are getting the right amount of dialysis. Sometimes too much or too little dialysis can lead to symptoms like dry, itchy skin.
  • Allergies and other causes: Be sure you are not sensitive to the soaps, laundry detergents, lotions, or perfumes you may be using. Sometimes the dyes and fragrances in these products can cause allergic reactions that make skin itchy. Also, taking baths with water that is too hot can leave your skin too dry and lead to itchy skin

Useful tips

  • Try to figure out what is causing the itching. Is it better at some times than others? What helps or makes it worse? Tell your healthcare team what changes you feel and see with your skin.
  • Find a good skincare routine, with daily cleansing and moisturizing. Ask your healthcare team which moisturizers work best for your symptoms.
  • Don’t scratch your skin! Scratching tends to make the itching worse, and may even damage the skin and lead to infection.
  • Stick to the diet given to you by your healthcare team along with your phosphate binders.

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