What Is The Medical Term For Itching?

person itching elbow

It’s always fun to learn new things and learning a cool new word can scratch that itch of curiosity you might have.

Speaking of itch, you may be wondering what medical term is used to refer to itchiness or really itchy skin. Itching to solve this mystery? We have just the educational aloe vera you are looking for—and you’ll learn a few more dermatological terms along the way!

What is the medical term for itching?

In medicine, the term pruritus is used to refer to “itchiness” or “itchy skin.” The English pruritus was first recorded in the late 1300s. It comes through Middle English from the Latin word prūrītus, meaning “an itching.” This Latin noun comes from the Latin verb prūrīre, meaning “to itch.”

Typically, pruritus is a symptom of another disease or medical condition that causes itchiness. For example, pruritus is often a symptom of allergic reactions, bug bites or stings, contact with poisonous plants, acne, skin infections or injuries, and many other medical conditions. Often, pruritus is simply caused by dry skin.

Healthcare professionals use medical terms—such as pruritus—to provide universal medical care and standardize communication within the medical field.


Examples of medical terms that include pruritus

The term pruritus is typically used in the names of itchy conditions that are named for the specific part of the body where the itching is happening or the cause of the itching. Here are some examples:

  • ocular pruritus: itching in the eye
  • brachioradial pruritus: itching in the outer part of the lower arm
  • senile pruritus: itching due to aging skin
  • cholestatic pruritus: itching due to liver disease

What are some medical terms similar to pruritus?

While pruritus is the only medical term used to refer to “itching,” there are a few other terms used to describe similar dermatological conditions:

  • The medical term dermatitis is used to refer to any irritation or inflammation of the skin and, like pruritus, is used in the names of many different specific irritating medical conditions.
  • Another medical term similar to both of these words is xeroderma, which refers to dry skin. Just like pruritus and dermatitis, xeroderma is used in the names of different medical conditions, specifically ones that involve dry skin.

Do you know the medical term for the belly button? Find out here.

Examples of non-medical synonyms of itching 

What if your itching is more … metaphorical? Perhaps something is making your skin crawl figuratively rather than literally. In that case, there are some other words you could use to refer to itchiness.

The adjectival form of pruritus is pruritic, and this word is the closest you’ll be able to get to an exact synonym of itching.

The word urticant refers to something that causes itching or skin irritation.

If you are looking for words that refer to skin irritation, you could use:

  • prickling
  • tingling
  • scratching
  • stinging
  • crawling
  • tickling

If you are looking for bothersome words that refer to general irritation, you could use:

  • annoying
  • irritating
  • disturbing
  • vexing
  • agonizing
  • aggravating
  • irksome

Figuratively, the word itching can also mean to really want to do something. In this sense, other words you could use include:

  • anxious
  • enthusiastic
  • impatient
  • keen
  • raring
  • yearning
  • zealous

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