PREVIOUS QUESTION:

 

NEXT QUESTION:

 

What is the science behind scratching?

ANSWER

Your muscles, joints, and organs can hurt. But your skin is the only part of your body that can feel both pain and itch.

An itch can be triggered by something outside your body, such as poison ivy, or by something happening on the inside, such as psoriasis or allergies.

Though it feels good, scratching actually triggers mild pain in your skin. Nerve cells tell your brain something hurts, and that distracts it from the itch. It can make you feel better in that moment, but 1 in 5 people say scratching makes them itch somewhere else on their body.

Sometimes the pain from scratching makes your body release the pain-fighting chemical serotonin. It can make the itch feel even itchier.

That’s why the more you scratch, the more you itch. The more you itch, the more you scratch. This cycle can be tough to break, especially if your itch is really bad.

SOURCES:

Washington University, St. Louis: “Why scratching makes you itch more.”

University of California Berkeley: “Pain and itch connected deep down.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Dry Skin/Itchy Skin.”

Mayo Clinic: “Itchy skin (pruritus.)”

National Psoriasis Foundation: “Managing Itch.”

NHS Choices: “Eczema in Children: 7 Steps to Stop the Itch,” “Itching -- Treatment,” “Topical Corticosteroids.”

Nature Reviews Neuroscience: “Sensory neurons and circuits mediating itch.”

Seminars in Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery: “Management of Itch in Atopic Dermatitis.”

British Medical Journal: “Referred itch (Mitempfindung.)”

American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology: “What Makes Us Itch?”

Cancer Research UK: “Tips to cope with itching.”

National Multiple Sclerosis Society: “Itching.”

Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner on July 06, 2017

SOURCES:

Washington University, St. Louis: “Why scratching makes you itch more.”

University of California Berkeley: “Pain and itch connected deep down.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Dry Skin/Itchy Skin.”

Mayo Clinic: “Itchy skin (pruritus.)”

National Psoriasis Foundation: “Managing Itch.”

NHS Choices: “Eczema in Children: 7 Steps to Stop the Itch,” “Itching -- Treatment,” “Topical Corticosteroids.”

Nature Reviews Neuroscience: “Sensory neurons and circuits mediating itch.”

Seminars in Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery: “Management of Itch in Atopic Dermatitis.”

British Medical Journal: “Referred itch (Mitempfindung.)”

American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology: “What Makes Us Itch?”

Cancer Research UK: “Tips to cope with itching.”

National Multiple Sclerosis Society: “Itching.”

Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner on July 06, 2017

NEXT QUESTION:

How can itches be different?

WAS THIS ANSWER HELPFUL

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

    This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

    Other Answers On: