Itchy rash on chest

If you have an itchy rash on your chest, it could be a symptom of a number of conditions including:

Allergic contact dermatitis

Allergic contact dermatitis is sometimes referred to as contact allergies. It occurs when your immune system overreacts to your skin being touched by a triggering substance that commonly wouldn’t cause a reaction. Allergic rashes typically don’t have clearly defined edges. Some substances that commonly trigger allergic contact dermatitis include:

  • latex
  • cleaning agents
  • adhesives
  • topical medications
  • essential oils

Some treatment options for allergic contact dermatitis include:

  • determining and avoiding your triggering substance
  • applying over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription creams or ointments that contain a steroid

Acne vulgaris

Acne vulgaris occurs when hair follicles become clogged with excess sebum — an oily substance from your skin — and dead skin cells. The plugged follicles can become inflamed with an increase of normal skin bacteria resulting in pimples and even cysts.

Your face, neck, chest, and back are common locations for acne to occur. These areas of your body contain a large amount of the glands that secrete sebum.

Treatment of acne vulgaris may include:

  • cleaning the area with gentle cleansers
  • avoiding irritants such as abrasive scrubs
  • using water-based or noncomedogenic products
  • trying OTC products that contain benzoyl peroxide
  • applying prescription topical applications that include an antibiotic like clindamycin or erythromycin or retinoid therapy such as tretinoin
  • taking prescription oral antibiotic therapy such as tetracycline or minocycline

Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a skin disease in which skin cells rise to the surface too fast resulting in patches of red, scaly skin. It can show up virtually anywhere on your body, including on your chest.

Treatment of psoriasis may include prescriptions from your doctor, including:

  • topical corticosteroid cream or ointment to reduce itching and inflammation
  • synthetic vitamin D cream such as calcipotriene or calcitriol
  • phototherapy using natural or artificial ultraviolet A or ultraviolet B light
  • other prescription medications such as methotrexate (Rheumatrex), cyclosporine (Gengraf, Neoral), etanercept (Enbrel), and thioguanine (Tabloid)

Although they haven’t been definitively proven effective, popular home remedies for addressing symptoms include:

  • aloe vera
  • oral fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids) supplements
  • topical barberry (also known as Oregon grape)

Shingles

Shingles is caused by the dormant varicella-zoster virus. This is the same virus that causes chickenpox. Shingles appears as a blistering rash often accompanied by painful burning and itching.

To treat shingles, your doctor may prescribe or recommend:

There are also a number of home remedies to help symptoms of shingles, including calamine lotion and colloidal oatmeal baths to relieve itching.

The takeaway

An itchy rash on your chest could be a symptom of a condition that requires medical attention from your doctor. Most itchy chest rashes are relatively easy to diagnose.

Once you know the underlying condition causing your rash, your doctor can recommend treatment to cure or limit progression.