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The Itch-Scratch Cycle

By: Dr. Wang Skincare Education Team

Oct 07, 2015

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Over the past two years, we had many conversations with patients suffering from eczema as we started to research and develop an eczema ointment. Itching is one common symptom faced by nearly all of these patients, regardless of their sex and age.


The Itch-Scratch Cycle

The itching can be so persistent and annoying. Many people cannot resist the temptations to scratch their skin. Although scratching provides temporary relief, it inevitably makes itching and eczema conditions worse. The reason is simple. As we itch the skin, we further break down the outer layer of the skin (stratum corneum) which serves as the skin barrier that prevents allergens or bacteria from entering the living portion of the skin. Furthermore, break down of the skin barrier also expedite water loss of body and makes skin more vulnerable. The end result is the vicious scratch and itch cycle.

How to stop the itch?

Willpower is often not enough. Here are some tips that can help:

1. Try the cold compress. Apply ice or frozen food on itchy spots. This will reduce the severity of itch or stops itch all together in some cases. It turns out that cold temperature activates the same nerve fibers that transmit the itching sensation. So we are just fooling the body to think it is cold rather than itching.

2. Take an antihistamine such as Benadryl. Many people I spoke to had a severe itch that interferes sleep. In those cases, anti-histamine drugs may help to ameliorate the severity of itch.

3. Apply moisturizer ointments or creams. Although the effect of most creams, lotions and ointments are disappointing, it can help to rebuild the skin barriers in the long run and prevent worsening of itch. Also, consider trying Herbal Rescue Balm from Dr. Wang Herbal Skincare. The product has shown to reduce itchy within 5 minutes after application in a small clinical study.

We hope this information helps you the next time you have the need to scratch and itch.

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