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Clin Dermatol. 2018 Mar - Apr;36(2):140-151. doi: 10.1016/j.clindermatol.2017.10.005. Epub 2017 Oct 17.

Causes, pathophysiology, and treatment of pruritus in the mature patient.

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Department of Dermatology, Lewis Katz School of Medicine, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
Department of Dermatology & Miami Itch Center at the University of Miami, Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine, Miami, FL, USA. Electronic address:


Chronic itch is a common and debilitating health condition in the elderly. There are several common causes of itch in the mature population, such as skin xerosis, immunosenescence, and neuropathic changes. In addition, skin diseases, such as seborrheic dermatitis and stasis dermatitis, systemic conditions (end-stage renal disease and diabetes), or psychogenic derailments, such as depression, anxiety, and dementia, can all serve as triggers of pruritus. Polypharmacy, a common occurrence among the elderly population, may also serve as a cause of itch that may or may not be accompanied by dermatitis. Such medications as μ opioids and calcium channel blockers have been found to have a connection with pruritus in the advanced aging population. Determining the exact trigger for pruritus in the elderly may be especially challenging, because itch can be idiopathic in many cases. The role of treatments should not only take into account elimination of various underlying cutaneous, systemic, or psychogenic conditions associated with itch but also focus on the skin changes that are characteristic of the aging process. Development of such treatment options can be guided by elucidation of the mechanisms underlying the pathophysiology of itch in the geriatric population.

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