Why Do We Itch? The Scientific Causes Are Really Rooted in Evolution

 Why Do We Itch? The Scientific Causes Are Really Rooted in Evolution

Whether or not you’re coping with dry pores and skin, a mosquito chunk, or a full-blown allergic response, you’ve probably skilled your justifiable share of itchiness. However if you happen to’ve ever puzzled precisely what causes an itch (which known as pruritus to dermatologists), it may be a extremely sophisticated factor, admits Alix J. Charles, MD, a dermatologist and fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Whereas we’re all intimately aware of what an itch feels like, the feeling is likely one of the least understood and researched within the dermatology world, per a latest article in Dermatologic Remedy.


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Typically, discovering what causes itching is simple and apparent (the poison ivy you unintentionally touched whereas gardening). Different instances, it’s tough to determine what’s inflicting that must-scratch-now sensation, says Dr. Charles.

Right here, we break down why we itch, widespread causes behind itching, the rationale scratching feels so satisfying, and what to do in case your itch simply gained’t go away, with knowledgeable perception from dermatologists.

Very first thing’s first: Why can we itch, anyway?

Put merely, you itch as a result of your pores and skin has receptors known as pruriceptors (itch-sensing nerve endings) which get stimulated and, in flip, trigger that itchy feeling, explains Melanie Grossman, MD, a board-certified dermatologist primarily based in New York Metropolis. As a part of the immune response, your physique releases substances known as histamines, triggering the itch.

There’s a deep-rooted evolutionary benefit to the itch: It’s your physique’s manner of letting you already know ASAP that one thing (an allergen, a parasite like mattress bugs or ticks, or a would-be intruder) is irritating your pores and skin, the protecting barrier between you and the surface world. Listed below are a couple of extra widespread culprits:

Chemical substances or drugs

Typically, chemical substances inside your physique could cause itchy pores and skin, says Dr. Grossman. For instance, drugs like opioids include the widespread facet impact of itchy pores and skin (probably due to shared pain-itch neurons), and sicknesses like kidney and liver illness could cause itchiness resulting from a build-up of poisons.

Psychogenic itch

This comes from the discharge of the chemical substances serotonin and norepinephrine, which might accompany anxiousness, despair, and stress. “For those who’re going by way of a interval of stress like a dying within the household or divorce, we are going to generally see individuals itching for that motive,” explains Dr. Charles. Warmth could make you itchy, too.

Neuropathic itch

This uncommon reason for itching happens when there’s actually nothing improper with the pores and skin in any respect, however the mind itself perceives itching someplace, explains Dr. Charles. It occurs when there’s been injury to your nervous system (assume: shingles, stroke, or perhaps a burn damage).

Dry, irritated pores and skin

Dry pores and skin in want of some high quality moisturizing could make you itch, says Dr. Charles. Pores and skin circumstances like eczema and psoriasis may also trigger your pores and skin to itch.

Why does scratching an itch really feel so darn satisfying?

Basically, scratching an itch feels good as a result of it distracts you from the preliminary irritation with a brand new feeling. “Once you scratch an itch, you’re really creating a special sensation, which, relying on how exhausting you scratch it, might be extreme or minimal ache,” Dr. Grossman says. For a brief time period, this could additionally present reduction.

After all, generally while you scratch an itch, you solely exacerbate the necessity to itch because of the irritation from scratching and the potential of making new wounds in your pores and skin. With extra irritation comes extra itching.

What if my itch gained’t go away?

“The very best remedy for itching is eliminating the trigger,” says Dr. Grossman. In spite of everything: It’s higher to know what causes an itch—whether or not it’s your laundry detergent or dry pores and skin—than merely scratching at its floor. Right here, a couple of go-to dwelling cures and over-the-counter options for a few of the commonest itch triggers from the professionals:

For dry pores and skin: Keep away from over-soaping itch-prone areas like your legs and lather up with a delicate moisturizing lotion, like this one from CeraVe.

For bug bites and different localized itching: Eliminate the supply (as in, deal with your canine for fleas or ditch your new detergent) after which strive OTC options like 1 p.c hydrocortisone anti-itch cream or calamine lotion for spot remedy.

For hives and allergy-induced itching: Take an OTC antihistamine like Benadryl. If that doesn’t work, head for the dermatologist, says Dr. Charles.

For stress-induced itching: For those who assume your psychological well being might be on the root of your relentless itch, head to your doc for a correct ID. Together with stress administration, drugs for anxiousness and despair may assist relieve your itching.

For the thriller itch: For those who’ve tried to handle what’s inflicting your itch (otherwise you simply can’t determine it out), don’t deal with your itch alone. Name your physician or dermatologist for assist, says Dr. Charles.

CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion

CeraVe Every day Moisturizing Lotion




Aveeno Max Strength 1% Hydrocortisone Anti-Itch Cream

Aveeno Max Energy 1% Hydrocortisone Anti-Itch Cream




HUMCO Calamine Lotion

HUMCO Calamine Lotion




Benadryl Ultratabs Antihistamine Allergy Relief

Benadryl Ultratabs Antihistamine Allergy Aid




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