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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, often disabling disease of the central nervous system. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis, and there is currently no cure for MS. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS. An estimated 1 million people live with MS in the United States. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, and it affects women three times more than men.


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