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What To Know About Old Scar Itches

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on June 11, 2021

A scar is what is left when a wound on your skin heals. Scars form after you heal from burns, cuts, sores, scrapes, or even surgery. They may slowly fade away with time, but they generally do not go away.

Types of scars. There are many different types of scars, including:

  • Hypertrophic scars. These are scars caused by excess collagen production during healing. They do not go beyond the wound margin. 
  • Keloid scars. Production of excess collagen also causes this type of scar. However, unlike hypertrophic scars, they overgrow beyond the injury margin forming a bulge on the skin.
  • Acne scars. Acne, inflamed skin blemishes, forms as a result of clogged pores.
  • Scar contractures. These are healing tight burn wounds.
  • Normal fine line scars. This is a scar from a minor cut. It leaves a line that fades over time.

The Connection Between Old Scars and Itching

Several factors can make your scar itchy. For instance, when your body is trying to heal and regrow skin cells. The process mechanically activates itching because your nerves register an irritation on the skin. It is an attempt to draw your attention to check the area in case something is wrong. This response is similar to what you feel when something crawls on your skin.

Nerve fibers in your body may secrete some chemicals such as histamine, a natural itch inducer. Histamine is a chemical response to foreign substances. It protects the body from sudden exposure to outside elements.

Some scars, such as keloids, continuously grow into a hard bulge covered by smooth skin tissue. This part of the skin may be itchy when rubbed against things like the fabric that makes your clothes. Although keloids may discolor your skin, they are not a danger to your health.

Scars from burns, contractures, may make your skin stretch tightly. Healed burn scars may often trigger an itchy sensation due to the skin tightness.

Dangers of Scratching Old Scars

Although old scars have already healed, avoid scratching them. The area remains sensitive to any irritation despite new tissues developing and hardening over time. Scratching a spot may erode these skin cells leaving your skin exposed to new infections from dirt and bacteria.

Treating Itchy Scars

It is unlikely that your old scar will go away, but some of them will slowly fade off with time. Itching on scars goes away by itself. 

When itching becomes persistent, you may use these methods to reduce it:

  • Apply anti-itch creams (on overly itchy scars).
  • Use cool compression on the scar to reduce the itchy sensation.
  • Gently wash the scarred area to remove any extra dead cells that may be causing additional irritation.
  • Apply moisturizing creams and oils that contain Vitamin E. Moisturizing your skin may help you reduce irritation that occurs on dry skin.
  • Massage and apply firm pressure on the itchy area using lotion can help you reduce the itchy feeling.
  • Distract yourself to keep your mind off the itch. Distractions such as mild exercise, games, or activities may work.
  • Cut your fingernails short. If you tend to scratch yourself while asleep, shortening your nails can help reduce damage to your skin. 
  • Use unscented laundry detergent. Some people get skin irritation from scented detergents. Avoid using them to reduce itching.
  • Some scars like keloids require protection from direct sunlight. You may use sunscreen or wear appropriate clothing.

Medications. Some medications may help you reduce irritation, such as:

  • Sleeping pills. Suppose the itching is uncomfortable and keeps you up at night. In that case, consider getting safe sleep medications from a doctor to help you sleep through the itching.
  • Gabapentin. This is a type of medication that works by controlling itchiness through the part of the brain involved.
  • Antihistamines. Taking antihistamines may work by blocking the histamine produced. Some antihistamines are available over the counter. They include Benadryl, hydroxyzine, cetirizine, and loratadine.

Consider talking to a medical professional before taking any oral medication. Apart from getting the correct dosage, it may also help to avoid any allergy-inducing medication.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

‌American Society for Dermatologic Surgery: "The effects of topical vitamin E on the cosmetic appearance of scars."

‌Harvard Health Publishing: "Keloids."

Journal of Burn Care & Research: "Pruritus in adult burn survivors: Postburn prevalence and risk factors associated with increased intensity." 

‌MedlinePlus: "Scars."

‌Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center: "Itchy Skin After Burn Injury." 

National Health Service: "Scars."

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