Practical Guidelines for the Relief of Itch

Gil Yosipovitch; Jennifer L. Hundley


Dermatology Nursing. 2004;16(4) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Itch is the major symptom in skin diseases with a variety of etiologies. Recent progress has been achieved in understanding the pathophysiology of itch in skin diseases. There are many topical therapies available for managing pruritus. Emerging therapies include dominant ceramide moisturizers, topical immunomodulators, low pH moisturizers, topical aspirin, and combinations of moisturizers with antipruritic compounds. Using these in conjunction with practical measures for itch reduction can benefit patients in the outpatient clinical setting.

The leading symptom in patients with inflammatory skin diseases is pruritus (itch). Pruritus is uncomfortable to live with and can affect one's life considerably. The quality of life in patients with psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, and chronic idiopathic urticaria has been studied with regard to itch (Yosipovitch, Goon, Wee, Chan, & Goh, 2000; Yosipovitch, Goon et al., 2002; Yosipovitch, Ansari, Goon, Chan, & Goh, 2002). Many patients attribute poor sleep, depression, agitation, difficulty concentrating, and reduced sexual desire and function to itch. Treatment can be challenging, and often several modalities are attempted before total or even partial relief is achieved. In addition to using the oral and topical antipruritic medications available, there are some simple measures that patients can take to reduce the intensity of itch.

Dermatologic nurses will likely encounter many patients with pruritus who are desperate for relief. A brief overview of itch and topical approaches to its management is provided, as well as behavior modifications that patients may find helpful.


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