A close up of a woman's neck with a visible graphical representation of uncomfortable, itchy skin. Let your kidney disease itch be heard

About your kidney disease itching

From symptoms to causes and diagnosis – learn the basics of kidney disease itching.

What is

Kidney disease itching?

Extreme itching is a disruptive symptom associated with kidney disease that can make you scratch uncontrollably and damage your own skin, which can lead to bleeding and infections.1 It is often described as an itch beneath the surface, which no amount of scratching can satisfy.2,3 At first, you might think it is a bee sting or an allergic reaction.


Since everyone feels their kidney disease itch differently, it can be hard to identify. For some, the itch is constant, but for others it flares up during the day or night.4 Some people find their whole body is itchy, while others are affected on areas such as the face, back and dialysis arm. Things like extreme temperatures, stress, exercise and water can be a trigger.5


So much more than ‘just an itch’, kidney disease itching is linked to a number of health conditions.4,6,7 That’s why it’s important to speak out and get help if you are suffering.

The medical term for kidney disease itching is ‘chronic kidney disease-associated pruritus’ or ‘CKD-associated pruritus’.5

How common is

CKD-associated pruritus?

Living with kidney disease itching can feel overwhelming, but remember that you are not alone.

of CKD patients
on dialysis...

of CKD patients not on


…experience itching.6,8

What causes

Kidney disease itching?

The exact cause of kidney disease itching is not known, but several factors play a part.5

Nerves misfiring

Kidney disease can change the signals nerves send from your skin to your brain. If your nerves send too many signals or signals for no reason, it can cause itching.5

Pain signal problems

Chemicals that naturally occur in the body called opioids play a role in how your brain receives pain signals. Kidney disease can make your body produce too many opioids which block pain messages and cause excessive itching.5

Immune system overacting

Kidney disease can cause an imbalance in your immune system which can lead to inflammation in your skin. This can cause chronic itching.5

Dialysis not working well

If you are on dialysis and it is not working well, this can cause toxins to build up under your skin and cause itching.5

How CKD-associated pruritus

Is diagnosed

If your itch is affecting your life, speak to your doctor right away. They will examine your skin, ask about your medical history and they may order blood tests, allergy checks and scans.1


Itching can be caused by lots of different things and no single test can confirm whether it is related to kidney disease. That’s why your doctor will use a process of elimination to find the root cause of your itch.9 If nothing can be found, you will likely be diagnosed with chronic kidney disease-associated pruritus.1,5

Useful kidney disease itching terms

There are lots of medical terms that you might read or hear which relate to your kidney disease itch. Here are the most common ones.


A condition that is long-term and that usually comes on slowly.10


A medical process which removes toxic waste products from the body when the kidneys are not working properly.10

Immune System

The body’s natural defence system which protects it from infection.10


Long, thin fibres that carry information and signals between the brain and other parts of the body.11


An unpleasant itching sensation that causes intense scratching.1


Poisons found in the blood which are usually removed by the kidneys.10

Kidney disease itching is more than just an itch


From sleep quality to social life and mental health – find out how your itch can affect your life.4,6,7

Find out more