Why Does Kidney Failure Cause Itching?

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  1. If you are an individual with dry skin.
  2. Abnormal metabolism of minerals, especially such as calcium and phosphorus.
  3. If you have diabetes.
  4. If you have liver disease.
  5. Other factors include decreased sweating, sprouting of new nerves, systemic inflammation, and accumulation of toxins.

There are a number of treatment options to help cope with uraemic pruritus. But the main goal is to fix the underlying cause, restoring the amount of urea in the blood back to normal by optimizing dialysis efficacy.

Other treatments include:

  1. Treatments to help keep the balance of calcium and phosphorus in the blood.
  2. Applying emollient to ease dry skin. The use of non-soap cleansers may help, too.
  3. UVB phototherapy, irradiation therapy with the use of short wave ultraviolet radiation.
  4. Kidney transplantation.
The imbalance of hormone erythropoietin (EPO)

EPO is essential hormone required to help stimulate bone marrow to produce red blood cells. Without EPO, you can have anemia.

The damaged kidneys can affect the production of this hormone, causing too low level of EPO. And some patients with kidney failure find that EPO shot is helpful to ease their itching.


The damaged kidneys’ inability to clear metabolic wastes and high amount of minerals in the blood will naturally stimulate the body to draw more liquid from the skin, causing dry skin. And skin dehydration can contribute to cause and worsen skin itching.

Kidney disease is often associated with chronic dehydration. It may also interfere with the oil-producing glands of the skin, another cause of dry skin. Applying moisturizer is the common treatment option to rehydrate the skin and keep it moist.

Kidney dialysis

At advanced stage of the disease, especially for end-stage renal disease, dialysis is a common treatment option to support or replace the kidney function.

It is a life-support treatment with a special machine that has main function to help provide a normal, healthy balance of blood. It will artificially filter wastes, salt, or other excess substances (including fluid) from the blood. It can replace many of the important functions the kidneys.

There are several types of dialysis for people with 85-90 % loss of kidney function. But generally, these are grouped into two categories:

  1. Hemodialysis, it filters blood with a dialyzer (dialysis machine).
  2. Peritoneal dialysis, a procedure of dialysis that uses a special cleaning solution filled into abdomen to filter blood inside the body.

The use of hemodialysis is more common than peritoneal dialysis. In some cases, patient may only need temporary dialysis.

The dialysis treatment itself is usually painless. But it can carry a series of side effects. Some people may develop discomforts such as low blood pressure, cramping, nausea, vomiting, weakness, headache, or depression.

It can contribute to cause itchy skin, too. Because the treatment can make your skin produce less oil! Furthermore, some patients may have allergy to dialysis and this may make their body to release more histamine.

If dialysis is to blame for your itching, the first step to cope is optimizing the efficacy of your dialysis treatment. If you have allergy to your dialysis, your doctor may recommend another type of dialysis. Kidney transplant is alternative treatment, but you need a kidney donor for this option!

Histamine release

Histamine is a protein, chemical neurotransmitter. It is usually produced and released when there is a foreign, harmful thing (such allergen) invading the body. It can trigger an allergic reaction, and itching can be one of the symptoms.  The release of histamine can worsen skin dehydration, too.

Actually, histamine is a part of natural mechanism in the body. At any given time, your body releases a small amount of histamine. But kidney disease can affect your normal histamine production.

In people with kidney failure, the accumulation of excess wastes in the body can be toxic. The use of some treatments for kidney disease may also carry the risk of allergy. These can stimulate the body to release more histamine.

If your itching is linked to high amount of histamine, some medicines are available to reduce this protein. Anti-histamine medicine is usually used to help achieve instant-relief.

The treatment of itching associated with kidney failure can vary, because again the disease can cause this symptom in several different ways. For comprehensive guide to cope with symptoms of your kidney problem, talk with your doctor!

Citations /references:

  1. http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/kidney-disease/kidney-failure-what-to-expect/Pages/facts.aspx
  2. http://www.kidney.org.uk/help-and-information/medical-information-from-the-nkf-/medical-info-calcium-phosphate-index/medical-info-calcium-phosphate-levels/
  3. http://www.dermnetnz.org/systemic/uraemic-pruritus.html


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