Kidney-related itching: tips to help ease the itch

From cold packs and moisturising creams to getting support from your kidney health team, people with kidney-related itching share strategies that have helped them ease their kidney itch

We have lots of expert information to help you tackle CKD-associated pruritis (CKD-aP), often just called kidney itch. But when it comes to managing symptoms like itching, other people with CKD are a great source of tips and tricks.

“Talk about this among kidney groups,” advises Jenn, who says other patients’ tips have been invaluable for her – and remember, you may have tips that will help them too.

Everyone’s different – just because something helps someone else, it doesn’t mean it will help you, so it may be a question of trying different things. And tips from other patients should never replace advice from your doctor.

Here, we’ve gathered the strategies other people tell us work for them.

Soothing kidney itch: care for your skin

Don’t underestimate the power of looking after your skin – dryness is likely to make itching worse so moisturisers can help considerably. You don’t have to spend a lot of money – any plain emollient should help. Your pharmacist will be able to help you choose a suitable one.

Becci says she uses E45, while others reach for Cetraben, Aveeno, Eurax or Hydromol ointment, which you can use in the shower or bath. Kam says, “I find Balneum Plus Cream helps big-time.”

Your doctor can refer you for more specialised skin help from a dermatologist, if necessary, and can prescribe treatments that aren’t available over the counter, including for skin conditions that may be contributing to itching.

“Now I have regular visits with my renal dermatologist and have been told I have discoid eczema,” says Helen.

“They prescribed a deep moisturiser called Cetraben, which I rub all over daily, twice daily on my back. And a topical steroid called Elocon, which I use every four days or so when the itching gets bad. I currently have an eczema flare up so been told to apply the steroid daily for two weeks. I also have a really itchy dry scalp and apply Betnovate scalp treatment daily.”

Soothing kidney itch: try temperature tricks

People have found different ways to soothe itching on-the-spot – and simple things, like hot or cold packs, can help a lot.

“Ice packs are my most reliable fix for this issue,” says Jenn. “It’s the only thing that works for me, with near 100% effectiveness.”

If you find it helps you, too, be prepared with ice packs you can reach for quickly whenever itching strikes. “I have a freezer drawer that’s full of ice packs!” says Jenn.

“I put cold flannels on the itchy area, or frozen peas,” says Becci. “Don't scratch, rather rub – try a loofah or flannels, make them hot or cold too.”

Ice pack soothing itching

Soothing kidney itch: take the focus off

This may be easier said than done, but sometimes distracting yourself can help.

“I find when I focus on itching, it does get worse,” says Jenn. “Go for a walk, take exercise – do something that takes your mind off it, even for just a little bit. It might lessen the symptoms, and then over time you find it to be more manageable.”

Soothing kidney itch: talk to your healthcare team

If self-help tips aren’t helping much and you haven’t yet discussed itching with your healthcare team, it’s time to ask them for support.

People with CKD say they’ve had helpful suggestions from healthcare professionals – so take itching seriously and raise it at your next appointment.

“I suffered terrible itching for years with no answers,” says Kam. “In my view, it’s worse than pain. I was prescribed a cream (Dermacool) from the nephrologist, which really helps,” says Kathleen.

Talk to your doctor about your overall treatment plan, including dialysis – Dawn says more regular dialysis at home helped ease itching for her. “Dialysis helped my itching massively,” agrees Becci.

Your doctor may also be able to prescribe medication that helps.

Soothing kidney itch: be persistent

In appointments, there can be a lot of other things for your healthcare team to cover – but itching is a debilitating symptom and deserves their attention too.

If your healthcare team aren’t taking it seriously, Jenn says, “First off, be relentless!”

Dawn agrees: “Talk to your doctors if you’re having problems with things. It’s part of staying healthy and staying well. If they haven’t addressed your problem, go back and ask them again and don’t stop asking until you receive some type of resolution – don’t get discouraged.”

Do you have any kidney itch tips to share? Join the discussion about kidney itch and all aspects of living with kidney disease on the Kidney Care UK Facebook group.

This patient information resource has been made possible with a financial contribution from CSL Vifor. CSL Vifor has had no editorial input into or control over the content which has been independently owned and created by Kidney Care UK.