Monday, January 30, 2012

Scratch that itch

How good does it feel to scratch an itch?

It depends on where you're scratching.

That's the finding of Dr. Gil Yosipovitch, a dermatologist and researcher at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem.

Characterized in the medical center's news release as a "world-renowned itch expert," Yosipovitch has done previous studies which have shown that itching is pleasurable.

His latest study focused on which of three body sites -- sorry, no buttocks or genitals included -- feel the best when scratched.

Relief was felt most intensely at the ankles and on the back when compared to the forearms. And “the pleasurability of scratching the ankle appears to be longer lived compared to the other two sites,” Yosipovitch concluded.

He induced itching for 18 study volunteers by rubbing them with Mucuna pruriens, a tropical legume that is known to cause intense itching.

What's the point of all this?

Yosipovitch said his research will lead to a better understanding of itch and how to relieve it for people who have skin diseases such as eczema and psoriasis.

“If we could translate this to a treatment that induces a pleasurable relief sensation without damaging the skin, we may be able to help itchy patients,” he said.

The study was supported by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease. It was published online this month in the British Journal of Dermatology.