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Chronic Itching May Be Overlooked in MS, Says New Study: Some Treatments May Help

September 23, 2022

Researchers at the University of Miami found that 27 of 77 people with MS reported experiencing chronic itching (also known as pruritus). Itching occurred in the upper and lower limbs and hands, scalp, and face. Compared to people with MS without chronic itching, people with it reported more fatigue, heat sensitivity, cognitive impairment, and depression or anxiety. They also were more likely to have nervous tissue damage in the spinal cord or brainstem (the base of the brain).

Some Treatments Help: Importantly, note the authors, chronic itching in MS is most likely “neuropathic” – meaning it is likely occurring from “short-circuiting” of the nerves that carry signals from the brain to the body because of damage from MS. For this reason, topical itch relief, such as skin creams, are not likely to help. But this type of chronic itch is similar to neuropathic pain, and may respond to nonpharmacologic (acupuncture, mindfulness and meditation, cognitive behavioral therapy) or pharmacologic (anti-seizure medications, anti-depressant medications) treatments. Heat was noted as an aggravating factor in this study, so wrapped ice packs might help as well.

Learn more about pain and itching and treatment in MS, and get a handle on new approaches to relieving neuropathic pain, which may help chronic itching

Read more about this study from University of Miami Health

Read a scientific summary of the study (abstract) in The Journal of the European Academy of
Dermatology and Venereology


About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable disease of the central nervous system. Currently there is no cure. Symptoms vary from person to person and may include disabling fatigue, mobility challenges, cognitive changes, and vision issues. An estimated 1 million people live with MS in the United States. Early diagnosis and treatment are critical to minimize disability. Significant progress is being made to achieve a world free of MS.

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The National MS Society, founded in 1946, is the global leader of a growing movement dedicated to creating a world free of MS. The Society funds cutting-edge research for a cure, drives change through advocacy and provides programs and services to help people affected by MS live their best lives. Connect to learn more and get involved:, Facebook, X, formerly known as Twitter, Instagram, YouTube or 1-800-344-4867.


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