Repetitive scratching and noxious heat do not inhibit histamine-induced itch in atopic dermatitis

Y. Ishiuji, R. C. Coghill, T. S. Patel, A. Dawn, J. Fountain, Y. Oshiro, G. Yosipovitch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Background: Repetitive scratching is the most common behavioural response to itch in atopic dermatitis (AD). Patients with chronic itch often report that very hot showers inhibit itch. We recently reported that scratching and noxious heat stimuli inhibit histamine-induced itch in healthy subjects. However, no psychophysical studies have been performed in AD to assess the effects of repetitive heat pain stimuli and scratching on histamine-induced itch. Objectives: To examine the effects of repetitive noxious heat and scratching on itch intensity in patients with AD using quantitative sensory testing devices. Methods: Itch was induced with histamine iontophoresis in 16 patients with AD in both lesional and nonlesional skin as well as in 10 healthy subjects. Repetitive noxious heat and scratching were applied 3 cm distal to the area of histamine iontophoresis. Subjects rated their perceived intensity of histamine-induced itch with a computerized visual analogue scale. Results: Our results demonstrate that repetitive noxious heat and scratching do not inhibit itch intensity in lesional and nonlesional AD skin but do so in healthy skin. Of note, both these stimuli increase itch intensity in lesional AD skin. Conclusions: Our results strongly suggest that scratching and noxious thermal stimuli have a different effect upon histamine-induced itch perception in patients with AD when compared with healthy controls. This difference may be associated with both peripheral and central sensitization of nerve fibres in AD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)78-83
Number of pages6
JournalBritish Journal of Dermatology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Itch
  • Psychophysics
  • Quantitative sensory testing
  • Sensitization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dermatology


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