The all consuming urge to itch is easily recognisable to an eczema or urticaria sufferer, and as they well know – scratching an itch always makes it worse!
Scientists in Washington are claiming to have worked out why.
Doctor Zhou-Feng Chen, director of Washington University’s Centre for the (wonderfully named) “Study of Itch”, has found that scratching causes the brain to release serotonin, which intensifies the itch sensation.
When we scratch our skin, it interferes with the signals that our brain is receiving. Instead of picking upon the itch, it recognises the pain of the scratch, causing the release of pain-numbing serotonin.
As this serotonin spreads from the brain into the spinal cord, it can become misplaced and move from neurons that sense pain to nerve cells that influence the intensity of an itch.
This study was conducted on mice, which is obviously not something I condone. However, it’s interesting food for thought and something to encourage you to leave that itch alone!