Scratching that itch might just make it worse

Don't scratch that itch
Scratching doesn't always help

A new study delivers scientific proof on how scratching makes the itchy sensation worse.

It seems that scratching makes the brain release serotonin, which travels to the spinal cord, tingling “nerve cells that influence itch intensity”.

In the beginning, scratching makes the itch go away as the sensation switches to mild pain. Then, the brain pumps in serotonin, responding to the pain signal. Serotonin spread quickly through the body, only to intensify the itching sensation.

Dr. Zhou-Feng Chen, director of Washington University’s Center for the Study of Itch and lead author of the study explains the results :

“Scratching can relieve itch by creating minor pain. But when the body responds to pain signals, that response actually can make itching worse.”

The research was conducted on regular mice and also on a special breed of mice whose brains were incapable of producing serotonin. Upon injecting itch-inducing substances into both types of mice, the subjects not producing serotonin did not scratch as much as their fellow normal mice. This led the researchers into thinking there is a link between serotonin and the itchy sensation.

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