Neurodermatitis is a skin condition characterized by chronic itching or scaling. Neurodermatitis starts with a patch of itchy skin, but scratching makes the area even itchier, so you keep scratching. Eventually you may scratch simply out of habit. This cycle of chronic itching and scratching can cause the affected skin to become thick and leathery.
Neurodermatitis — also known as lichen simplex chronicus or scratch dermatitis — isn't serious, but breaking the itch-scratch cycle is challenging. Successful treatment of neurodermatitis depends on identifying and eliminating factors that may be aggravating the problem. Over-the-counter and prescription creams can help ease neurodermatitis symptoms. Once the scratching stops, it can take a while for your skin to return to normal.
Signs and symptoms of neurodermatitis include:
The primary symptom of neurodermatitis is itchy skin — often a single patch on the neck, wrist, forearm, thigh or ankle. Sometimes neurodermatitis affects genital areas, such as the vulva or scrotum.
The itchiness, which can be very intense, tends to come and go. Eventually you may scratch simply out of habit.
When to see a doctor
Neurodermatitis is a skin condition characterized by chronic itching or scaling. You'll notice raised, rough, itchy areas of skin — typically on the neck, wrist, forearm, thigh or ankle. ...
The exact cause of neurodermatitis isn't known. Sometimes neurodermatitis begins with something that simply rubs or irritates the skin, such as tight clothing or a bug bite. As you rub or scratch the area, it gets itchier. The more you scratch, the more it itches.
In some cases, neurodermatitis is associated with other skin conditions — such as dry skin, eczema or psoriasis. Stress and anxiety can trigger itching, too.
Certain factors may increase your risk of neurodermatitis, including:
Persistent scratching can lead to a bacterial skin infection and permanent scars or changes in skin color. Scratching may also disrupt your sleep.
Preparing for your appointment
You may start by seeing your primary care physician. However, you may then be referred to a doctor who specializes in skin disorders (dermatologist).
Because appointments can be brief, and there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to arrive well prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions can help you make the most of your time together. For neurodermatitis, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment at any time that you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
What you can do in the meantime
Tests and diagnosis
Diagnosis is typically based on your skin's appearance and a history of itching and scratching. Your doctor may recommend one of the following tests to rule out other causes or to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatments and drugs
To stop the stubborn itch-scratch cycle, you must stop scratching the affected area. It's bound to be tough, but you can do it. And your doctor can help.
Your doctor may recommend one or more of the following treatments:
Even after successful treatment, mild scarring or changes in skin color could remain.
Lifestyle and home remedies
The following are ways you can lessen the itch and irritation caused by neurodermatitis.
Several alternative therapies may help lessen the symptoms of neurodermatitis, including:
Last Updated: 2010-05-05
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