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Breaking the Itch–Scratch Cycle: Topical Options for the Management of Chronic Cutaneous Itch in Atopic Dermatitis

Department of Research and Development, Ego Pharmaceuticals Pty Ltd., 21-31 Malcolm Road, Braeside VIC 3195, Australia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Medicines 2019, 6(3), 76;
Received: 20 June 2019 / Revised: 12 July 2019 / Accepted: 16 July 2019 / Published: 18 July 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Pathogenesis and Treatment of Chronic Pruritus)
PDF [1633 KB, uploaded 18 July 2019]


Chronic itch is an unpleasant sensation that triggers a desire to scratch that lasts for six weeks or more. It is a major diagnostic symptom of myriad diseases, including atopic dermatitis for which it is the most prominent feature. Chronic itch can be hugely debilitating for the sufferer, damaging in terms of both the monetary cost of treatment and its socioeconomic effects, and few treatment options exist that can adequately control it. Corticosteroids remain the first line treatment strategy for atopic dermatitis, but due to the risks associated with long-term use of corticosteroids, and the drawbacks of other topical options such as topical calcineurin inhibitors and capsaicin, topical options for itch management that are efficacious and can be used indefinitely are needed. In this review, we detail the pathophysiology of chronic pruritus, its key features, and the disease most commonly associated with it. We also assess the role of the skin and its components in maintaining a healthy barrier function, thus reducing dryness and the itch sensation. Lastly, we briefly detail examples of topical options for the management of chronic pruritus that can be used indefinitely, overcoming the risk associated with long-term use of corticosteroids. View Full-Text
Keywords: chronic pruritus; skin; atopic dermatitis; ceramide; pine tar chronic pruritus; skin; atopic dermatitis; ceramide; pine tar

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Harrison, I.P.; Spada, F. Breaking the Itch–Scratch Cycle: Topical Options for the Management of Chronic Cutaneous Itch in Atopic Dermatitis. Medicines 2019, 6, 76.

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