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The Link Between Phosphorus and Itching

By Yvonne Hayton ; Updated August 14, 2017

Phosphorus is an essential mineral found most commonly in the body as phosphate. It is required for healthy cell function, and it is a major structural component of bone. However, high levels of phosphorus in the body, known as hyperphosphatemia, can lead to chronic itching. There are several reasons why unhealthy levels of phosphorus may occur.

Hyperphosphatemia

Phosphorus is found in most foods. Too much dietary or intravenous intake of phosphorus can lead to unhealthy levels, as can certain medications that contain phosphate, such as laxatives. Your kidneys help to control the levels of phosphorus in your body, filtering out the excess. However, if kidney function is impaired through damage or disease, hyperphosphatemia may occur.

Hypoparathyroidism and Phosphorous

Low levels of magnesium in the blood may lead to a condition called hypoparathyroidism. The parathyroid glands produce a hormone, PTH, which helps control calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D levels in the blood and bone. Hypoparathyroidism occurs when the glands produce too little PTH, causing calcium levels to fall and phosphorus levels to rise. Symptoms of hypoparathyroidism include dry, scaly skin, which may cause itching.

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Other Causes of Hyperphosphatemia

Other possible reasons for high phosphorus levels include bone tumors, liver disease and sarcoidosis, a hereditary condition or one that results in excessive sensitivity to environmental factors. It causes inflammation of the lymph nodes, lungs, liver, eyes, skin and other organs and tissues. A diabetic condition called ketoacidosis, in which the body cannot break down glucose for energy due to lack of insulin, may also lead to high levels of phosphorus.

Controlling Hyperphosphatemia

Hyperphosphatemia may be controlled by medication that binds phosphorus from your food. Some phosphorus binders contain calcium, which can also help to increase your calcium levels, redressing the balance between phosphorus and calcium. Avoiding foods high in phosphorus, such as milk, eggs, meat, fish and lentils, may also help.

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