We all know that scratching provides temporary relief from itchy skin by creating a mild sense of pain that nerve cells transmit to the brain instead of itch signals. The problem is, particularly among those with chronic itching problems, scratching often leads to a vicious cycle of more itching and scratching. Recent research has led to new insight into this phenomenon, which could lead to better treatments. It seems that scratching causes the brain to release the pain-relieving hormone serotonin, which also targets cells that control itch intensity, further increasing the impulse to scratch. New research may lead to ways of blocking communication between serotonin and itch-transmitting cells.
See a dermatologist if itchy skin lasts more than two weeks and doesn’t improve with self-care measures. The best way to deal with chronic itching involves having the dermatologist identify its cause and treat it accordingly.