What is the itch-scratch cycle?

What is the itch-scratch cycle?

Itch is a common symptom associated with a wide range of skin conditions, but usually goes hand in hand with dry skin and dry skin conditions like Eczema and Psoriasis. While for most people having an itch is just a minor annoyance, chronic itch can have a significant effect on quality of life, causing interrupted or shortened sleep, agitation, poor self-esteem and difficulty concentrating.


The itch-scratch cycle?

The natural impulse when an itch arises is to scratch it. This temporarily relieves the itch, and releases some serotonin which feels good for a moment, but it also releases inflammatory chemicals in the skin and disrupts the skin barrier. This can stimulate a new itch signal, which in turn leads to more scratching, beginning a vicious cycle.

Over time, and with continued scratching, the surface of the skin can be rubbed raw and may even bleed, which exacerbates the underlying skin condition and could lead to the possibility of skin infections.


Breaking the itch-scratch cycle

Sometimes, breaking the itch-scratch cycle can be as simple as ensuring the skin is properly moisturised. Regular and liberal use of emollients can help treat dryness and relieve the associated itch. A cold compress can also be helpful for temporary relief.

But for chronic itch, it may be necessary to talk to your doctor, who will investigate the underlying condition and will be able to suggest a more targeted management approach.

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