A woman lying in bed reaching to scratch her irritated legs.

How I Manage My Itchy Skin With CKD

Itchy skin seems to be a common symptom for people dealing with chronic kidney disease (CKD), especially during the end stages. My legs were the target for my itchy flare ups. At first, I wasn't sure if they were itchy from CKD. I thought that maybe it had to do with shaving my legs, but I was scratching to the point that I would start to bleed and then have scabs, especially on my shins. Sometimes, I wouldn't remember the scabs were there and continue to itch, leaving little scars up my shins from accidentally scraping of the scabs. GROSS. I know.

Sometimes, I'd wake up in the middle of the night itching like crazy. You know when you're in a semi-slumber state and you are doing something that you aren't even aware of... that's me itching.

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I began to do some digging into why my skin gets so itchy with CKD and it can be due from a build up of phosphorus in your blood that your kidneys are unable to filter out. Apparently, having high levels of phosphorus can cause itchiness and dry skin. Phosphorus is included in all kinds of foods such as meat, dairy, fish, and nuts.

I was also getting super dry eyes and muscle cramps from what can also be related to high phosphorus. I'm a big believer in thinking that I can manage my blood tests through diet. Whenever I could, I would reduce my intake of red meats, dairy products, and nuts. I wasn't a big fisher eater so I didn't need to reduce my intake but be more aware of how much I ate in future. I didn't stop myself from eating all of these foods but I made sure that I portioned everything out and did my best not to over indulge.

For the most part I was able to keep my phosphorus levels down enough that I managed to stay off calcium carbonate until recently.

Treating my itchy legs

In the end, although I had changed my diet, it became harder for my kidney to filter it out, leading to a buildup of toxins in my blood and the itchiness returning. I was put on a medication to help reducing the itching.

A home remedy for helping my itching skin was not shaving my legs as often. Each time I was shaving my legs, it was making them even more dry and therefore adding to the itchiness of what was already there. But sometimes, you do want to shave your legs, so when I do shave, I try moisturizing much more. This isn't my first method as sometimes I found the moisturizer could also irritate my legs and make them itchy, but it could also be the specific moisturizer I have been using.

Overall, I was able to manage my itchy skin through changes to my diet and some minor lifestyle changes. Medication came into play when my kidney function got lower and also had a massive benefit on my skin, but please talk with your doctor before taking any new medications. What helps one person, might not help another.

This or That

In addition to chronic kidney disease, do you also live with diabetes?

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