Neurodermatitis belongs to the group of atopic illnesses, and starts with a patch of itchy skin. The affected people often rub or scratch the same area which makes it even itchier. This cycle of chronic itching and scratching can cause the affected skin to become thick and leathery. Although neurodermatitis isn't serious, breaking the itch-scratch cycle is challenging. Successful treatment of the disease depends on identifying and eliminating factors that aggravate the condition. Creams may help ease the symptoms. With good treatments and skin protection, a normal life if possible.
When somebody has neurodermatitis, he/she may notice several of the following symptoms:
- Usually: only one or two itchy patches on the body
- Seldom: several itchy patches
- Patients tend to scratch and rub the itchy patch/es
- Patches seem to itch:
- In stressful situations
- For no apparent reason
- During relaxation
- Pain (e.g. on the scalp)
- Conditions due to frequent scratching or rubbing
- Hair loss
- Raised, rough patch/es that is red to violet-colored
- Thick skin that looks leathery
- Scarring (if the wound is deep)
- Infection (honey-colored crusts, fluid, pus-filled bumps)
The exact cause of neurodermatitis is still unknown. This disease might develop when nerves overreact to a bug bite, emotional stress or tight clothing. By rubbing and scratching the area, it gets itchier. The more the affected person scratches, the more it itches.
It’s important to diagnose and treat neurodermatitis properly because it rarely goes away without treatment.
Some people are more likely to get neurodermatitis, e.g.:
- Women between ages 30 and 50
- People with a history of eczema, dry skin, psoriasis or similar skin conditions
- People with emotional stress or anxiety disorders
Persistent scratching may result in a bacterial skin infection and permanent scars or changes in skin color. Scratching can also disrupt the sleep.
Diagnosis is usually based on the appearance of the skin and a history of itching and scratching. The dermatologist probably removes a small sample of the affected skin for testing. In this way, the doctor can rule out other causes of the condition.
To stop the vicious circle of itching and scratching, the patient has to stop touching and scratching the affected area. Depending on the intensity of the symptoms, the following nonprescription and prescription medications may help:
- Anti-itch cream or lotion, e.g. nonprescription hydrocortisone cream or oral antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine – it may help if itching is severe
- Antihistamines – these anti-allergy drugs can relieve itching
- Anti-anxiety drugs – the drugs often prevent itchiness associated with neurodermatitis
- Antibiotics – the drugs may be prescribed if the patient develops a bacterial infection in the rash
Self care at home
- Prevention of scratching:
- Cover the affected area with bandages or dressings, especially during the sleep
- Keep the nails very short to protect the skin from being damaged when it’s scratched, especially at night
- Apply a cool compress when the skin starts itching
- A cool bath with baking soda, uncooked or colloidal oatmeal also soothes the skin
- Avoidance of irritation:
- Keep body at a comfortable temperature (heat and sweat may irritate the skin)
- Wear loose-fitting smooth-textured cotton clothing
- Use mild soaps without perfumes
- Rinsed soap completely off the body after washing
- Use moisturizer after washing
- Keep stress under control and stay calm
However, to clear neurodermatitis it’s imperative to follow the treatment plan given by the doctor and to stop rubbing, scratching, and touching the affected areas. For some people, it’s useful to talk to a doctor in order to learn how behavior and emotions can prevent or fuel itching and scratching.