Pruritus (itch) can be described as “an unpleasant sensation in the skin which leads to the desire of scratching” (1).
- can be widespread or localized
- also seen in the squamous epithelium of the conjunctivae, mouth, nose, pharynx and anogenital area and in the ciliated epithelium of the trachea (1)
It is frequently a distressing symptom which
may interfere with the quality of life of a patient, for example preventing
normal sleep and should therefore be taken seriously.
Itching which is experienced as a feeling, arises in the skin from a cutaneous
nerve stimulation mediated via several substances (histamine, vasoactive peptides,
enkephalins, substance P and prostaglandins) (3).
The sensation of Pruritus may be enhanced by chronic or intense scratching
creating a distinctive itch-scratch-itch cycle (4).
The incidence of pruritus increases with age (1) and is one of the most common
complaints in the elderly patient population. Most often dry skin, otherwise
known as xerosis is the commonest cause in these patients (3).