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Pruritus measurement and treatment


  • Conflict of interest: none declared.

Dr Howard I. Maibach, Department of Dermatology, University of California, Box 0989, 90 Medical Center Way, Surge 110, San Francisco, CA 94143-0989, USA.


Pruritus measurement is problematic, because of its subjective nature and poor localization. Ratio scales enhance the usefulness of the visual analogue scale (VAS) by reducing variation; other scales such as the generalized labelled magnitude scale may also be useful. Pruritus neuroanatomy includes peripheral receptors, peripheral and central nerves, ascending and descending spinal pathways, and several brain regions. Pruritus receptors include Merkel discs and free nerve endings, and itch receptors have fast or slow adaptation. In this review, we discuss the pathophysiology of pruritus in atopic dermatitis, psoriasis and scabies. Pruritus treatment is reviewed for topical agents and antihistamines. Future research directions are suggested.