Entries in chronic itching (1)


Chronic Itching and Chronic Pain Equally as Debilitating

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- For people who suffer from itching that lasts weeks, months or even years, the discomfort can be debilitating. According to a new study, it can be just as debilitating as chronic pain.

Leigh, who didn't want her last name used, recently suffered from a bout of persistent itching that lasted for about two months.

"It distracted me from everything I did," she said. "I was constantly scratching or thinking about scratching."

Leigh was diagnosed with scabies, a condition that causes severe itching as a result of mites burrowing into the skin.

"Itching isn't much different than pain. Both impact quality of life," said Dr. Suephy Chen, associate professor of dermatology at the Emory University School of Medicine and a physician at the Atlanta VA Medical Center. Chen is also a co-author of the study published in the current issue of the journal Archives of Dermatology.

Chen and her fellow researchers wanted to find out just how much chronic itching impacts people's lives. They compared subjects with chronic itch to subjects with chronic pain and discovered that both conditions are equally as debilitating. They defined chronic itching as anything lasting longer than six weeks.

Medical conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, can cause itching. Chronic itching can also have no known cause. People with the condition often experience depression, anxiety and difficulty sleeping.

Study participants found their itching to be such a detriment to their quality of life that they indicated they were willing to give up 13 percent of their life span -- about 10 years, based on how long the average American lives -- to live itch-free.

The study also found that being married helped people deal with their situation better.

Being married or having some other support system can be helpful, researchers say. Support is vital because coping with chronic itching can be very difficult.

Chen and other experts hope this study can lead to the development of more effective treatments for chronic itching.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio