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J Dermatol. 1997 Oct;24(10):621-5.

Acetylcholine is an inducer of itching in patients with atopic eczema.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany.


As previous experimental studies disproved histamine as the main mediator of eliciting pruritus in atopic eczema (AE), we examined the neurocutaneous sensations in 15 patients with AE and in 15 age- and sex-matched non-atopic controls after i.c. injection of acetylcholine (Ach, 0.5 M, 20 microliters) or buffered saline. The sensory perceptions were rated by the participants of the study with regard to their quality and intensity using a visual analogue scale. Simultaneously, the vascular reactions to Ach were recorded by the examinators via laser Doppler fluxmetry as well as flare and wheal planimetry. In contrast to the approximately equal flare and wheal extensions in either group, the cutaneous sensations differed significantly. The patients complained of 'pure' itching that developed shortly after Ach injection, whereas the control subjects reported only burning pain. Moreover, the patients perceived their sensations significantly earlier and significantly longer than did the controls. The study provides evidence that Ach plays an important role in the pathogeny of pruritus in patients with AE. Further investigations of the neuronal mechanisms involved in this atopy-related effect of Ach have to be performed.

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