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Exp Dermatol. 2002 Feb;11(1):12-24.

Pathophysiology of pruritus in atopic dermatitis: an overview.

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Department of Dermatology and Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Cell Biology and Immunobiology of the Skin, University of Münster, Münster, Germany.


Pruritus is an essential feature of atopic dermatitis (AD) and the diagnosis of active AD cannot be made without the history of itching. Because of the high impact on life quality, most of the patients measure the severity of eczema by the intensity of pruritus rather than appearance of skin lesions. However, although pruritus is a cardinal symptom of AD, its mechanism and association with the cutaneous nervous system is not completely understood. Recently, a considerable progress has been achieved in clarifying the complex pathophysiology of pruritus in AD. As a cutaneous sensory perception, itch requires excitation of neuropeptide-containing free nerve endings of unmyelinated nociceptor fibers. It is well known that histamine and acetylcholine provoke itch by direct binding to 'itch receptors' and several mediators such as neuropeptides, proteases or cytokines indirectly via histamine release. Interestingly, some variations of these complex mechanisms could be demonstrated in patients with AD. This review highlights the recent knowledge of different mechanisms which may be involved in regulating pruritus in patients with AD potentially leading to new therapeutic applications for the treatment of itch in AD.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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