Neurodermatitis is not your ordinary eczema, and has its own distinct symptoms and characteristics. In this blog,we look at what causes it and what can be done to soothe the infernal itch.
Where does neurodermatitis occur?
Neurodermatitis (also known as chronic lichen simplex) affects one or several patches of skin. Unlike most eczema, psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis, the itchy patch is in one particular place, while chronic skin conditions generally affect much more widespread areas of the body, which come and go in flares.
An itchy patch of neurodermatitis can develop anywhere you can reach to scratch; typically this means the forearms, feet, neck, wrists or genitals. Usually, the condition is confined to one patch of skin, which gets itchier and itchier.
What are the symptoms of neurodermatitis?
The main symptom of neurodermatitis is an incessant, maddening itch. The itchy patch of neurodermatitis can get damaged by constant scratching, as the sufferer tries to relieve the unbearable itch; the skin can get thickened, discoloured (hyperpigmented), and leathery.
Sometimes the damage from itching is bad enough to cause broken skin, bleeding, and open wounds that can get infected, scab over or scar. On the scalp, constant itching can cause hair loss.
What causes neurodermatitis?
The original cause of an itchy patch of skin could be down to all sorts of things: tight fitting or irritating clothes or shoes, an insect bite, or an injury for example. Sometimes a patch of regular eczema that is within easy scratching reach gets so scratched that the itch-scratch cycle of neurodermatitis is activated, so that even if the original eczema flare has subsided, the neurodermatitis remains.
Whatever the root cause, with neurodermatitis the problem is in that itch-scratch cycle, where inflammation triggers itchiness, causing the sufferer to scratch, damage the skin, and in turn increase the itch impulse. The problem becomes chronic and is compounded by habit, and the skin ends up more and more damaged.
Who gets neurodermatitis?
People affected by the condition tend to be:
- 30-50 years old
- women rather than men
- suffering from stress or anxiety
- already prone to eczema or psoriasis
How do you treat neurodermatitis?
The main strategy for treating the condition is to break the itch-scratch cycle and allow the skin to heal.
Doctors may prescribe steroid creams, antihistamines, emollients, bandages or wraps to make damage less likely, as well as advising patients to find stress management techniques and distraction techniques. In severe cases, they may use immunosuppressants, steroid injections, or numbing agents.
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If you require medical advice we recommend you always contact your healthcare professional.
If you or someone you are caring for seems very unwell, is getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call for emergency services straight away. For general medical advice, please contact your healthcare professional, this article does not contain or replace medical advice.
Do not delay getting help if you're worried. Trust your instincts.