Could prurigo be caused by processed foods?

Prurigo healed and active

You can see both healed, mild and active prurigo

There is apparently no real known cause for nodular prurigo (NP) although insect bites can trigger it.

Generally it’s just something doctors say you have and which will go away when you stop scratching.

But boy does prurigo itch.

And it bleeds. Man does it bleed. It’s not like normal eczema.

It bleeds profusely, sometimes at the slightest touch and can leave you looking like you’ve just been stabbed… that lovely crisp clean work shirt now covered in blood stains.

Pruritis, which means itching is where the term comes from and basically they are hard, nodules or bumps which form on the skin. They can be very itchy and get thicker and larger when they are scratched.

And they just appear as if by magic from nowhere with no warning. Often in lines like little soldiers marching to battle. Almost like an insect has crawled along your arm and taken nips.

If scratched they get bigger, the skin thickens and they can last for a long time if you don’t control your scratching.

The picture on the right shows one nasty big bit of prurigo which is a little infected, some smaller ones which are healing and if you look really hard, loads of faint white circles, which are the scars left by years of torment from this bumpy itchy skin complaint.

I’ve written about prurigo before in a previous blog post and I have managed to slowly get on top of mine using repeated applications of steroids, loads of moisturiser and by covering them when they’re really bad to seal in moisture.

But what if they keep coming back? It’s a vicious cycle which just continues.

And what is causing it? I’m convinced I’ve noticed certain triggers for mine. Most noticeably eggs or processed foods of any kind.  I’m almost guaranteed a cluster after eating either of these.

What causes prurigo?

The British Association of Dermatologists say the following:

It is not known what causes NP, or makes the skin react in this way. However, once the skin has become itchy, scratching and rubbing will cause the skin nerve endings to become thicker and cause more itching; this in turn will make the condition worse.

  • NP may start after an insect bite in a few people.
  • Patients, under stress, are more likely to scratch. Stress can therefore make NP worse.
  • Up to 80% of people with NP are atopic (i.e. have asthma, eczema or hay fever).
  • Other conditions can create lesions similar to NP. If this is suspected your doctor may request blood tests to confirm diagnosis.

So if you haven’t been bitten by an insect it’s not that.

If you’re stressed, and lets face it, most of us are these days, it could itch more… and you may scratch more. But stress may not be the cause.

AND if you’re atopic – chances are you might be if you’re reading this… you could get prurigo.

But it’s not really that helpful or conclusive.  I don’t know anyone else who gets it.  It is thankfully quite rare. I never had this as a child, it’s something which began to happen in my late twenties, early thirties and is now a regular unwelcome visitor.

Mine goes away and stays away when I avoid all processed foods. But maybe I’m just less stressed and it’s just a coincidence that it heals.  Perhaps it’s completely random and just something we should learn to live.  It could be that I feel happier eating a healthy natural diet and so I am less stressed and scratch less.

And when I am busy and over stressed, those are the times I succumb to the easy, quick processed ready meals or quick foods or freefrom cakes or biscuits.  Am I wrongly blaming the processed foods?

But what if, by avoiding certain foods, you could get rid of it for good?  I’m not sure yet but I’m keeping a record of what I’ve been eating before it appears. Watch this space.

Prurigo is relatively rare but amazingly there is a company dedicated to supporting people with NP. See the link below.  Sadly no doctors have so far been aware of this website. I have only just discovered it today but there is the power of web research.

There is even a Facebook page for people with NP which you need to request to join but I’ve already learnt from other members of this group; it helps just to know you’re not the only one plagued with itchy and unsightly bumps.

Does anyone else get these hard, itchy bumps? Do you think yours is caused by anything in particular? Is it worse when you’re stressed?

Or am I living with a bug which keeps on biting me?

Further reading or information:

The British Association of Dermatologists

Nodular Prurigo UK
136 Bedford Street South
Liverpool, L7 7DB


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About RuthS

Ruth works freelance as a copywriter and writes the What Allergy blog to share information with people who have allergies, eczema, asthma and food intolerances. was voted in the top 5 allergy blogs and Ruth also judges regularly for the FreeFrom Food Awards and FreeFrom Skincare Awards. She runs a support group for the Anaphylaxis Campaign and also writes regularly for Exchange, The National Eczema Society quarterly magazine.


  1. Thank you for this post Ruth. It is always good to find a growing amount of knowledge about nodular prurigo (NP) on the Internet. The problems faced by people suffering from this chronic, so far incurable skin condition are real and life-changing. There is a great need to improve the education of primary doctors (GP’s) concerning this disease. Their reliance on the “Don’t Scratch” philosophy is just unrealistic. Unless you have experienced it yourself, there is no way that a comparison can be made between a ‘common’ itch and the itchiness of NP. It is an itch like no other, unremitting in its effect. My view is that although there is currently no ‘cure’ for NP, there is a desperate need for more investment in the psychological support of patients so that they can find positive strategies to deal with these distressing symptoms.

    • Thank you Rebecca, I have only just discovered that I have NP, doctors used to just say it’s eczema, but having had eczema all my life, another itchy problem, I know this is different. It’s so much more itchy and I have to tear off the tops of the lumps, which then don’t heal for months and months. Eczema by comparison is far easier to treat, heal and live with. And when my doctor told me I have prurigo he gave me no other information at all apart from some guidance of how to treat, which is with steroids, which take months to heal them. I am just so glad I found your website. Hidden in google. And the Facebook page which has given me so much insight and it’s always good to know you are ‘not the only one’. I don’t know anyonw else with NP so having some facebook contacts to moan, share and encourage is very positive. There seem to be lots of us out there! Mine appear to abate when I eat a very healthy, no processed foods diet but certain foods do seem to trigger it, althought these foods also cause allergies so it could be a knock on effect of the lowering fighting immune system. Got a new crop this week – lovely little blighters.

  2. I got here from looking into “frangrance sensitivity.” I’ve always been severely allergic, but have gone through periods of my life where things were tolerable. Are you sick and tired of hearing people saying YOU should live in a bubble? Let me tell you how frustrating it is for me seeing a doctor. My standard line is, “I’VE NEVER BEEN TO INDIA, BUT I WOULD NEVER BE SO AROGANT AS TO SUGGEST THAT IT DOESN’T EXIST JUST BECAUSE I’VE NEVER SEEN IT!” I find the medical community incompetant when it comes to explaining my circumstances and what it’s like to survive… bleeding exzema, hives, rashes, asthma. They have NO idea but I need to coddle them, I need to plead, I need to explain…. I know ALL there is to know about topical steroids, I know all about prednisone, give me my scripts and get me out of here already! Have you ever been to an allergist (he/she is a “specialist” charging upwards of $350.00 or more for a vistit)…moldy, dusty and dirty office, only to have a nurse/ assistant come at you soaked in perfume trying to tell YOU what’s what??? So tired, so sick… “you have A topical dermatitis” REALLY? REALLY! Oh, so I have inflamed skin? Tell me something I didn’t know because I know A topical dermatits means inflamed skin!!

    Here’s my survival techniques: KNOW YOUR TRIGGERS, KNOW THAT YOU LIVE IN A CAPITALISTIC SOCIETY AND WITH DOTORS AND DRUG COMPANIES, IT’S ALL ABOUT THE $$$$. RELIGIOUSLY READ LABELS. For eczema the best thing is plain old vaseline…moisterizes and puts up a barrier against allergens but you must used it with water on skin. It’s best to apply on moist skin after you get out of the shower. (DON’T LET THIS INFO REACH THE DRUG COMPANIES, THEY’LL FIND A WAY TO PACKAGE AND SELL FOR $500.00 a jar!) Noxema was invented by a pharmacist who’s wife suffered with eczema, but now they’ve added SOY bean oil so it sucks. By the way, if you suffer acid reflux, stay away from soy bean oil. It’s not fit for human consumption. Soy bean oil is CHEAP, lots of money to be made, so it’s in just about everything. So, from Noxema to Gold Bond, basically menthol and eucalyptus are key ingredients in fighting the itch of eczema and very affordable. If you are prescribed a topical steroid, mix it with your vaseline…a little goes a long way. Remember, topical steroids don’t CURE eczema. Learn how they work. They shluff off the bad skin (rash) and promote new healthy skin to grow. BUT…that new skin is more vulnerable to allergens, thus the catch 22 in making the eczema come back.

    Good luck and always feel free to tell a medical “expert” where to go when you know more than he or she about your condition 🙂

  3. carol Veitch says:

    Iam demented and going insane with this NP mine was caused through a spider bite 1yr ago it has left my body in a right mess, iam now suffering with a huge phobia of spiders which I can’t sleep and iam constantly thinkin there is insects inside me or crawling all over me, it is that severe it is causing big strain on my marriage and family life, please please help me I have had every steroid, cream, bandages ointments that there is available and nothin has worked or helped, please try to help me anyone I’m goin mad and feel as if I need sectioned at times

    • Hi Carol, I’ve just torn open a few of mine this evening. The drive you insane and bleed like a geiser, and I don’t have any magic answers I’m afraid. I still have NP, but when I eat a totally non processed diet, so everything natural, fresh and home cooked, it is much, much less itchy. I am paying the price of having some wine now I think. I know how hard it can be. Do you have a good dermatologist? Now mine is not so great about the NP but if you can get to see a specialist it might help. There are solutions and drugs that help some. Did you check out the facebook page link? There is a Nodular Prurigo facebook group which is really helpful. The only things that help me are having a really hot bath, using Epsom salts in the bath and some tea tree oil drops in the water too. I scrub my skin clean and then use a natural oil emollient or ointment like natural coconut oil or Pure Potions skin salvation. This might be insane advice for some people but it helps me. I hope you can find some relief. I find some aloe vera dabbed on can help heal the nodules too. But I
      am no expert, apart from being expert and tearing them apart. Drive you crazy. All I can say is you are not alone. Not sure if that helps, but do go to your doctor and try to find out if they can help and join the Nodular prurigo society. Good luck!

    • Hi Carol.
      I am a 27 years old Asian girl based in London and getting my treatment here from Guys and St Thomas hospital which is in world’s top derm clinics.
      I can exactly understand how you feel like cause I have been through same trauma from last 13 years.
      Heat and uncomfortable synthetic fabric is a big killer for us. Try keeping yourself comfortable in terms of skin feel and temperature.
      Unfortunately, there is not any treatment for us and how badly our life is influenced casue of this only we can understand that.
      I have been advised for immune suppressants, which are an absolute killer.
      You got to deal with this sweetheart. This is no other solution. Try keeping yourself busy and comfortable somewhere else. keep your body moisturized and scratch it the minimum you can.
      Good luck to all of us!

      • Hi Samia, so have you used Immuno suppressants? I’ve just been prescribed Protopic, not for my NP but for facial eczema. Great news that you get treated at Guys and St Thomas hospital though. Is the treatment good there? Does it help your NP?

  4. Hi I’ve been diagnosed with np ive had it for 5 months now absolutely egsausted with it I was in hospital two weeks still pitting on steroid cream and zinc bandages theyRe going away but I’m scared terrible I get light treatment from the hospital but this doesn’t work regards

    • Hi Jackie, I know, it’s horrible isn’t it? I find that if I cut out all processed foods apart from a few things that are really simple like oat cakes, mine is so much better. The problem is, when your skin is that bad all you want is easy comfort food. I have some at the moment on my legs and I find a hot bath helps, I put in Epsom salts and try to exfoliate the skin a bit. I find some of the nodules disintegrate and heal a little quicker. For me steroids don’t seem to help it heal at all, they just take ages to go and bleed like you wouldn’t believe. Awful lot of blood inside those little blighters. Have you joined the group on facebook for nodular prurigo? People discuss what treatments they are using so it might help you. worth a try. The link should be in the blog somewhere.

  5. Nina Trehn-Khanna says:

    Hello everyone, I’ve had prurigo for 10 years now but it still won’t clear up. I can tell you that everything that has been said on here, I’ve been there, done that, got all sorts of medicine and nothing worked. So one day I went to a natural healer and all she told me was to enjoy the things I love the most and exercise a lot to destress your body, also keep drinking loads of water, and guess what …it’s starting to work, well my face has improved a lot and I feel better. No dairy products in my diet. Good Luck.????

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