Itch is a common sensory experience that is prevalent in patients with inflammatory skin diseases, as well as in those with systemic and neuropathic conditions. In patients with these conditions, itch is often severe and significantly affects quality of life. Itch is encoded by 2 major neuronal pathways: histaminergic (in acute itch) and nonhistaminergic (in chronic itch). In the majority of cases, crosstalk existing between keratinocytes, the immune system, and nonhistaminergic sensory nerves is responsible for the pathophysiology of chronic itch. This review provides an overview of the current understanding of the molecular, neural, and immune mechanisms of itch: beginning in the skin, proceeding to the spinal cord, and eventually ascending to the brain, where itch is processed. A growing understanding of the mechanisms of chronic itch is expanding, as is our pipeline of more targeted topical and systemic therapies. Our therapeutic armamentarium for treating chronic itch has expanded in the last 5 years, with developments of topical and systemic treatments targeting the neural and immune systems.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy