Why is my itchy skin more itchy when I scratch?

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Lichen Simplex Chronicus is a skin condition that believe it or not is self-induced.  This condition affects both men and women and usually does not affect children.  It is more common in people who may suffer from anxiety or have obsessive compulsive disorder.  This usually presents as a round or oval or linear area of thickened skin that may or not be red but is intensely itchy.  The cause of this condition is unknown and may start simply as a small area of irritation or eczema or psoriasis or even and insect bite that the patient constantly manipulates – meaning rubs or scratches the same area repeatedly – whether they are aware of doing it or not.  It may be one area or more than one and usually involves only one side of the body and is often on the person’s dominant side.  The skin can start to look and feel leathery and can turn darker in color (known as hyperpigmentation), may look dry of scaly, and may have scratch marks across the surface.  This condition is found commonly or certain areas of the skin like the back of the scalp and neck, wrists and forearms, lower legs and ankles and the scrotum or vulva.  

Treatment consists on reducing the itch and trying to return the skin to its normal thickness – which is achieved usually by use of a topical steroid applied for a specified amount of time.  The MOST important part of the treatment of this condition is to STOP rubbing or scratching the affected area(s) and allow the medication to do its job!  Sometimes injectable steroid is used to treat this condition.  Moisturizer and antihistamines can also be very helpful as well.  Moisturizer with menthol can be helpful as the menthol provides a cooling sensation that seems to distract the nerves and stop them from putting out the symptom of itch.  We are happy to help you treat this condition and break the itch/scratch cycle!

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