Neuropathic Itch: Why Scratching Only Makes It Worse

Neuropathic itch is a condition that results in an abnormal sensation that feels like itchiness. The sensation is often described as burning, stinging, or prickling.

If you suffer from neuropathic itch, then you know just how frustrating and maddening this condition can be. Despite your best efforts, the urge to scratch is often irresistible—but as anyone who has ever had an itch can tell you, scratching only makes it worse.

 

Causes of Neuropathic Itch

Neuropathic itch is a condition that is caused by damage to the nervous system. This could be due to a number of various reasons:

  • Diseases that affect the nervous system: Examples include multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS.
  • Cancer: Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can damage the nerves and lead to neuropathic itch.
  • Certain medications: Medications used to treat high blood pressure, seizures, and depression can sometimes cause nerve damage and lead to neuropathic itch.
  • Injuries: Nerve injuries from surgery, trauma, or burns can sometimes lead to neuropathic itch.

When the nerves are damaged, they misfire and send signals to the brain that result in an itch.

The problem is that because the nerves are damaged, these signals are often inaccurate and the itch cannot be relieved by scratching. In fact, all scratching does is further irritate the skin and cause additional discomfort.

 

Symptoms of Neuropathic Itch

The most common symptom of neuropathic itch is a feeling of itchiness. This feeling can range from mild to severe. Other symptoms include:

  • Burning sensation
  • Stinging sensation
  • Prickling sensation
  • Pain
  • Numbness
  • Tingling

 

Treatments for Neuropathic Itch

If you suffer from neuropathic itch, it's important to resist the urge to scratch. Instead, focus on managing the underlying condition that is causing the itch.

This may require medication, lifestyle changes, or other interventions. If you can't get the underlying condition under control, then there are some topical treatments like Dermeleve® that can rapidly help relieve the itching sensation.

Treatments include:

  • Medications: Antihistamines, tricyclic antidepressants, gabapentin, and lidocaine patches can all help relieve the symptoms of neuropathic itch.    
  • Topical anti-itch ream: A non steroidal anti-itch cream like Dermeleve® can provide fast acting, long last relief without the longterm negative side effects or risk of addiction to corticosteroids. 
  • Therapy: Physical therapy, occupational therapy, and nerve blocks can all help relieve the symptoms of neuropathic itch.                    
  • Other treatments: Biofeedback and relaxation techniques can also help relieve the symptoms of neuropathic itch.

If you are experiencing any itching that cannot be explained by an allergic reaction or insect bite, it may be neuropathic itch.

Contact your doctor so they can properly diagnose you and determine which treatment plan is right for you. With proper diagnosis and treatment, you can find relief from the symptoms of neuropathic itch and improve your daily life.