It happened to me the other night. Suddenly I had an itch. There was no reason that I could see that I would have an itch but there it was. And with just a light little scratch, it was gone.
What causes you to itch?
When you have the occasional itch, it is in general a reaction. It might be something like the tickle of a feather or something on your skin that doesn’t belong there. Often times we are talking about an allergic reaction. You know, like poison ivy or an insect bite. It could also be an allergic reaction to something like jewelry or a lotion that you applied to your skin. People will start to itch as a reaction to some medicines. Also, when you get sunburned, your skin will slough off the burned skin. You will feel the need to itch as part of the healing process for your skin.
When we are talking about your feet itching, it can be because you have a fungal infection like athlete’s foot. When your skin is dry, it can also itch as a mechanism to get rid of the top layer of dead skin.
There has been a lot of research done on this topic in the last few years. It used to be thought that the urge to itch was closely related to the sensation of pain. That both reactions were controlled by a single class of nerve cells. Depending upon what was needed, the message was sent up to the brain to feel the need to itch or feel pain. What has been discovered recently is that the while the urge to itch is controlled by the same class of nerve cells, there is actually a specialized group in that class that makes us want to itch.
Does this mean anything special? Yes, it does. Scientists have found that they can breed mice that don’t have this specialized group of cells and that the mice don’t feel the need to itch. So, if this particular specialized “itch producing” set of cells can be blocked then you won’t want to itch. The research is promising but there is still a lot to learn before there is a treatment that will block the need to itch.
But doesn’t an itch serve a purpose?
Yes, it does and for those of us with the occasional itch, we would not want to thwart the process. Itching serves as a notice that our body is reacting to something. It is an alert that there is something not exactly right. It is a stimulus for us to change a behavior or pay attention to a problem.
But at any time, there is approximately 10 percent of the population being tormented by chronic itch. This can be part of a skin condition like eczema or psoriasis or the chronic itch can be an effect of multiple sclerosis or even some cancers. For those suffering with the chronic itching it is as bad as being in chronic pain. It is frustrating to the patient and the doctors treating them because it is hard to treat chronic itch.
Should you scratch?
We all do it. Sometimes you do it without thinking: sometimes you just can’t help yourself. You are much better off doing something that will take away the itch. In the case of a bug bite or something else that you can recognize the cause, use an over the counter product to relive the itch. If you are itchy and don’t know why, please go to the doctor to find out the cause and solution.
Of course you should not itch. When you itch, you are using your finger nails (usually) to break apart the top layer of skin. When your scratching opens the top layer of skin, you open yourself up for infection. You are much better off treating the area with an anti-itch cream or even an ice pack to relieve the itch rather than scratching it.
We are also sympathetic to other’s itching. There have been studies done proving that if you see someone scratching, you will also start scratching. All I have to do is hear the word “lice” and I will start scratching my head. And I may shudder a bit.
The Foot Blogger Chick