Causes and Treatment of Lymphoma Itching

It's not uncommon for patients with some lymphomas to experience itching (clinically known as pruritus). Lymphoma itching symptoms can range from a small, localized itch on the lower legs to systemic itching across the whole body. Additionally, lymphoma itching may also be a symptom indicating liver or kidney problems; namely, the body may not be processing toxins properly.

As always, tell your doctor about the development of any unusual itching you may experience, whether you believe it to be associated with your lymphoma or not.

Causes of Lymphoma Itching

In Hodgkin Lymphoma As many as one in four (25%) people diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma eventually develop an itch, often reported as a burning sensation on the lower legs. As such, lymphoma itching is a rather rare symptom, and since the cause is not known, "Hodgkin's Itch" has become something of a curiosity.

As a potentially more serious systemic or "B" symptom of Hodgkin Lymphoma, itching presents across the entire body as a result of the immune system abnormally releasing histamines (in this case, itching would be accompanied by other B symptoms, such as night sweats, weight loss and fever).

In Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma
Itching is a common symptom of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL); namely, in the dry, extremely itchy patches that first develop on the skin.

In Cancer/Lymphoma Treatments
Treatment featuring Interferon, Interleukin-2, or radiation therapy can sometimes lead to chronic itchiness. Itching has also been reported as a side effect of the monoclonal antibody rituximab.

Treatment of Lymphoma Itching

There are no specified treatments for lymphoma itching; rather, treatments are designed to address itch relief and they include:

  • Corticosteroid creams: rubbed into the affected area, they reduce inflammation.
  • Antihistamines: Benadryl is a popular way to treat itching, especially when taken in response to an allergic reaction (rash, hives, wheezing, and shortness of breath).
  • Over-the-counter analgesics: Pain medicines like acetaminophen or aspirin may help alleviate itching if it's painful.

Recommendations for Lymphoma Itching

Talk to your doctor about the best way for you to deal with lymphoma itching. In the meantime:

  • Drink enough liquids so that you keep your body and skin well hydrated.
  • If you want to use a moisturizer, keep it both mild and unscented to prevent added skin irritation.
  • Prolonged contact with or exposure to things such as clothing (friction), shaving, scratching, chemicals in some skin products, and extreme seasonal temperatures, can make the itching worse.
  • Light massage or vibration to itchy areas of the skin can help alleviate the symptoms.

Sources: Leukemia & Lymphoma Society: Symptoms of Hodgkin Lymphoma
Photo: Pexels

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