Have you ever asked yourself, why is eczema so itchy? I have and I always wondered if it’s a medical reason or is it a psychological reason.
If I had a pound for everytime someone said to me ” stop scratching” I’d be rich. People think it’s easy to just ignore the itch. I always reply by saying “You try ignoring a sneeze then!” It’s the same impossible urge, you just have to react to it.
I have looked into the subject and it’s unfortunately, like eczema, very complicated.
Here’s the medical jargon
The Itch in atopic dermatitis generally originates in the skin. Medical names for itch starting in the skin can be pruritus, dermatological itch, or pruritoceptive itch. This type of itch begins when free nerve fibers are stimulated by nerve endings called C fibers in the top layer of the skin (the epidermis).
The nerve endings can be overstimulated by different external reasons, including external irritants like smoke, heat, cold, dry skin ( lack of moisture), eczema flares, or chemical mediators in the skin (more about chemical mediators later).
In response to itch in the skin, nerve pathways are activated and messages travel to the brain. People often respond to itch with a behavior (called the behavioral response), which is often scratching. However, itch in atopic dermatitis is not as straightforward as this; it is actually thought to be very complex. This is because there are two other types of itch—neurogenic itch and psychogenic itch—that are also thought to play a part.
Neurogenic itch is generated in the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord interpret messages from nerve pathways) in response to circulating itch factors. Psychogenic itch is completely different as it relates to itch being stimulated by psychological factors. In eczema, these include unconscious or conscious urges to scratch, habit, or a response to stress.
OKAY That’s enough medical Jargon why is eczema so itchy?
It’s complicated I did warn you!
In my humble opinion and I’m no Doctor, ( See our disclaimer ) I think it starts as the nerve endings are stimulated by all the normal eczema irritants like Temperatures, Chemical irritants, dry skin etc, then we start to scratch. ( That’s bad, we all know that ) Then it turns into a Neurogenic itch, basically, it feels good to itch so your brain tells you to continue. You then start to feel better after itching but the damage is already done.
You then spend the next few days trying to heal where you’ve scratched, and hopefully, you haven’t caused a flare-up which can take weeks to cure.
How to stop scratching
I wish I could tell you how to do this, but I can’t because I don’t know what started it off in the first place. THIS IS THE CLUE to stop itching, you have started to scratch because the nerve endings have been stimulated. Why is eczema so itchy? Find out the reason and fix it, QUICK! It may be the room temperature to hot?, you may be stressed? You could have eaten the wrong type of food? Who knows but whatever the reason you need eliminate it and then moisturize your skin and try to cool it down to reduce the urge to scratch.
You won’t be able to resist the urge to scratch, so try to limit how much scratching you do and limit the damage, read a book, watch a movie do some housework go for a walk, anything to take your mind off it.
Why is my eczema so itchy at night?
Do you find your eczema is itchier at night? Have you ever wondered why I have and found some interesting explanations for this?
Your body’s natural circadian rhythms, or daily cycles, influence your skin’s functions like temperature control, fluid balance, and skin barrier protection. Through the night these functions can change, the blood flow to your skin can increase and your body temperature can rise hence you start to itch. We all know how much effect on our body the room temperature and your body temperature can have on us, simply the hotter you are the more you will itch.
During the night, your body releases more cytokines, which increase inflammation. Also, the production of corticosteroids — hormones that reduce inflammation — slows down. Add all these factors together and you’re going to itch more.
When you have the urge to itch through the day we can use things to distract us from scratching but through the night we have no control over our urge to itch. When you’re in a quiet bedroom with no distractions we are more likely to give in to the urge to scratch.
Other things can also make us itch at night and stop you getting a good nights sleep:
- Stress in general
- Worrying about if you WILL scratch through the night and set you back or worrying about waking up with a flare-up
- Work-related stress
- Allergies, Bedding, Dust mites, the material the sheets are made from. Test kits available from AMAZON CLICK HERE
- Thyroid problems
- Iron deficiency
- Poor diet and lack of fluids
- Alcohol and drugs
- Reaction to medication
Treating itchy skin at night
Before you try to stop your night time itching yourself, Please seek medical advice from your Dr or GP.
You can purchase some over-the-counter or prescription medicine with the advice of your pharmacist. Some of these medicines will take care of the itch only, Others will also help you sleep. And a few do both.
- Antihistamines ( Benadryl) (Chlor-Trimeton) (Vistaril) (Phenergan) are just a few.
- Steroid creams stop the itch, but limit the usage and seek medical advice as long-term use can cause side effects.
- Control fluid intake before bed
- Control the room temperature
- Lukewarm bath before bed can lower your body temperature and relax you.
Wet Wrap Therapy
Wet wrap therapy has been proven to reduce itching by up to 70%. Wet wraps are tubular bandages that can be reused time and time again. Wet the bandage with warm water and place over the top of the affected area which should have been creamed first using your normal creams or lotions.
Then wear clothing over the top to stop the wet bandages soaking the bedding. The wet layer of bandage helps moisturizers to be absorbed better by the body, rather than superficially absorbed, resulting in a longer-lasting moisturizing effect. ( Most Emollients normally only work for 1-2 hours.)
The water within the bandage will slowly dry up but in the process, your body will be cooler and the result will be less itching. Wet wraps also help the healing process for open or sore areas of eczema. Just like putting a Plaster or band-aid on a cut.
What’re the advantages of using wet wraps for eczema?
- Less itching
- Less damage to the skin
- Improved sleep
- Prevents scratch damage and fewer flare-ups
- Better nights sleep for the parents
- Happier family
Ask your Doctore about wet wraps and if they can supply you with them. If you can’t get any from your Doctor or GP you can always buy them from places like AMAZON we have provided a link for you CLICK HERE.
Remember the key elements that lead to itching.
- Try to reduce stress
- Temperature, control both your body temperature and room temperature
- Keep your skin moisturized at all times.
- Test for allergies so you know how to avoid inflammation from these.
- Excessive sweating
- Control your fluid intake
TRY THIS TRICK
Try this when the itch is on just one side of your body. It may sound like a magic trick, but it’s more than an optical illusion. Say your left arm itches. Look into a mirror and focus on your reflection’s left arm, which is actually your right. Scratch there as you watch and your brain gets the message that your eczema itch was taken care of.
I tried it the other day and it seemed to work, or was it just the placebo effect? I’m not sure, but give it a go, you never know it might work for you.
So why is eczema so itchy? Becuase it’s eczema and eczema itches…. A lot!
Read our article on ‘ FOODS THAT MAKE YOU ITCH‘
Watch this interesting video on Youtube
Final thoughts why eczema is so itchy
Many of the issues listed above could be contributing to your itchiness and many of them can be avoided. That’s the secret… Avoiding anything that may cause a flare-up or change your lifestyle to better suit your condition.
Don’t let eczema stop you doing the things you love in life, but reduce the things that are harmful to your treatment and management of eczema.
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