What is itching

What is Itching?

It happens to everyone sometimes and makes us all want to do the one thing we know will make it worse. It’s not exactly pain, but it’s definitely unpleasant, and when it’s severe or chronic it may be all you can think about. What is going on when we itch?

Science doesn’t yet have all the answers, but here’s what we do know…

What is Itching_

All vertebrates – even fish and reptiles – itch. But since scratching (or rubbing against a rock if you’re a lizard) can damage the skin and open the area to potentially dangerous infections, an itch isn’t always something you should ignore.

Think how often you absently rub your fingertips over an itch even when you’re not dealing with an insect bite, an encounter with poison ivy or an eczema flare-up. It’s probably so often that you don’t even notice that you’re doing it.

If animals had no instinct to sweep these small tickling sensations away, they could be overrun by biting insects and parasites. Some researchers now think that even the minor skin damage of a light scratch has its positive side – provoking inflammation may prompt the immune system to react faster, helping to fight any potentially-dangerous foreign substance that has already entered the skin.

Unfortunately, evolution didn’t grant us the ability to distinguish between skin sensations we can scratch away and those that would be better left alone.

The Itch-Scratch Cycle

Itching, or pruritis, happens when something – a physical touch, a chemical substance, an electrical signal or heat – activates specialized nerve fibers called pruriceptors, which fire signals to the brain and prompt a scratching reflex. If you do scratch, you stimulate pain and touch receptors in the area, which mask the itching sensation and provide temporary relief. But while the mild pain of scratching briefly cancels out the itch, it also causes your brain to release serotonin, which makes you more sensitive to itching. This vicious circle is known as the “itch-scratch cycle.”

The_ItchCycle

Most Types of Itching are Caused by…

Insect Bites and Poisonous Plants

Insect Bites and Poisonous Plants

One of the substances that can activate the nerves involved in itching is histamine. It’s part of your body’s defense system and causes capillaries to swell, allowing increased blood flow – accelerating the body’s immune response. That’s what causes the red bumps you see after a mosquito bites you, leaving behind a little of its saliva, or when you brush against poison ivy and the plant’s oils, which contain itch-inducing urushiol, are absorbed by your skin.

Sarna Original anti-itch lotion is infused with camphor and menthol, which Creates a cool, gently numbing effect on irritated skin. The cooling sensation overrides the itch signal, so you’re no longer tempted to scratch, and your skin has a chance to heal in peace.

Allergies

If you’re sensitive to certain substances in detergents, cosmetics, jewelry and clothing, contact with them will cause you to breakout in an itchy rash known as contact dermatitis. Rashes caused by allergic reactions can look and feel like insect bites or poison plant reactions, as the underlying process is the same – your body is releasing histamine in response to a perceived threat.

Of course, the most important step is to work out what’s causing your symptoms and avoid contact with the allergen. Consult your doctor about itches that you can’t explain and that don’t respond to home treatment. For immediate relief from the itch, the camphor and menthol in Sarna Original will calm your symptoms and allow your skin to heal.

Allergies
Dry Skin

Dry Skin

If you have an itch without an apparent rash or obvious cause – especially if it only happens in the winter months – dry skin is a likely culprit. Skin cracks easily when it dries out, allowing more allergens and irritants into your body. Moisturizing within three minutes of bathing is a good first step towards keeping dry skin smooth and comfortable. Sarna Sensitive is designed to deeply moisturize dry skin while soothing the itch.

Dry Skin

If you have an itch without an apparent rash or obvious cause – especially if it only happens in the winter months – dry skin is a likely culprit. Skin cracks easily when it dries out, allowing more allergens and irritants into your body. Moisturizing within three minutes of bathing is a good first step towards keeping dry skin smooth and comfortable. Sarna Sensitive is designed to deeply moisturize dry skin while soothing the itch.

Dry Skin

Eczema

There are many different forms of eczema, but it’s almost always characterized by patches of dry, itchy skin. You can develop eczema for the first time at any age, and the itch can be maddening.

Eczema-prone skin dries out more easily and is more sensitive to irritants in the environment, so keeping it moisturized is crucial to minimizing your symptoms.

It’s also important to avoid damaging the skin further through scratching, so a powerful, richly moisturizing anti-itch lotion like Sarna Sensitive is a helpful part of long-term self-care and can provide much-needed relief. Sarna Sensitive is designed for dry, sensitive, eczema-prone skin1, and it’s free of steroids, parabens and fragrances, which can trigger or worsen eczema flare-ups.

Eczema
Other types of itch

Other types of itch

Not all types of itching originate in the skin. Certain neurological conditions can cause the nerve fibers that carry the itch signal to fire even when the skin is undamaged. Some drugs such as opioids can cause itching as a side effect.

Itching can also be psychosomatic – or a complex interaction of physical and psychological factors. Some patients find themselves locked in the itch-scratch cycle – compulsively scratching and damaging their skin even in the absence of an underlying physical problem. If your itch persists for a long time and you can’t work out what’s causing it, speak to a medical professional.

Other types of itch

Not all types of itching originate in the skin. Certain neurological conditions can cause the nerve fibers that carry the itch signal to fire even when the skin is undamaged. Some drugs such as opioids can cause itching as a side effect.

Itching can also be psychosomatic – or a complex interaction of physical and psychological factors. Some patients find themselves locked in the itch-scratch cycle – compulsively scratching and damaging their skin even in the absence of an underlying physical problem. If your itch persists for a long time and you can’t work out what’s causing it, speak to a medical professional.

Other types of itch

1. Fleischer A, Johnson K. Comparative efficacy and patient preference of 1% pramoxine lotion and 1% hydrocortisone cream in reducing pruritus in mild atopic dermatitis. Poster presented at: the American Academy of Dermatology 2006 Annual Meeting; March 3–7, 2006; San Francisco, CA.