This is a common question posed by many people over several online forums: why do we itch and scratch? Those of us who have eczema are probably very familiar with the rashes, dry skin and especially uncontrollable urges to scratch ourselves. However, you are probably well aware that the more you scratch, the worse your itchy feeling gets. As long as you are scratching, it feels good. Yet when you decide to stop, the itch sensation returns. How then can you ever stop itching and scratching? Well, you first need to understand what is happening under your skin.
The reason is simple. When you itch, it is because your skin got irritated. Itching is a self defence mechanism and which is also known as pruritus. It usually starts with an external stimuli or trigger and your body is alerted to the potential of being harm because of the irritant. Receptors in the dermis of your skin send signals up your spinal code via your nerves and then to your brain. Your brain then tells you to remove the irritant quickly. Hence, you react by scratching so that you can get the irritant off your skin. But when you do so, you also start to irritate your nerves again.
These itch nerves send signals up and down your spine. The nerves that carry the itch sensation are the same ones that carry pain. Just as it's nearly impossible to ignore pain signals, it's very difficult to ignore the urge to scratch an itch. It's possible, but it is not easy, especially since, the
more you focus on an itch, the more it usually seems to intensify.
Atopic dermatitis (eczema) is actually one of the leading causes of chronic urges to itch. If you have eczema, there's even a good chance that, at some point in time, you've scratched your skin until it is raw, red or bleeding while you were sleeping at night. That sort of constant serious itching might temporarily relieve the itchy feeling.
Actually, though, if you scratch yourself hard or long enough you can cause scratch marks, welts and rashes to spread on your skin. In fact, if you scratch hard enough for your skin to bleed, you can even cause yourself to get a skin infection. If you can't scratch the itch, what can you do then?
Atopic eczema is linked to food allergies. Allergies release histamines into your body's systems. Histamines are proteins that can trigger some of the nerves in your body to send itchy
signals up to your brain. Hence to avoid food allergies, you should identify what foods are causing a problem for you. Dairy products, fish and certain food dyes, like yellow #5, are some
of the more common contributors, but each individual case is different.
You need to keep your skin as mositurized as you can. Dry skin tend to get irritated more often. One way to keep your skin healthy is to avoid using harsh soaps. You should also try
to use a lot of natural herbs and moisturizing creams to keep your skin from getting dry or flaky. Stress can also be a big factor. The more stressed you are, the more you probably find yourself scratching. Therefore, it's a good idea to always remain as calm as you can.
The bottom line is that scratching may feel good at the time. In the long run, it only worsens your eczema. You end up with skin that is damaged, raw and bleeding. The itch-scratch cycle is difficult but not impossible to break.