Health | Medical Tips

Science Behind Itching
Jun 17, 2016
Science Behind Itching

Do you know that an average human body is covered by about 20 square feet of skin? Skin is the only organ that is constantly exposed to various irritations. Hence, it is obvious that there is a pretty good chance you may be bound to get an itch. Itching is a sensation of tingling or scratching felt on our skin. The skin itchiness is called ‘pruritus’. It’s really annoying when we have to go on scratching for getting relief from an itch. Ever thought why do we scratch so impulsively? 

Our body is enclosed with numerous networks of nerves. These nerves are explicitly sensitive to various vibes taking place in our bodies such as touch, pain or itch. On the occurrence of an itch in our body, the “itching “nerve fibers arouse as they detect the presence of a protein called “histamine”. This protein is substantially produced during allergic reactions.


The protein is then passed to the brain via the spinal cord. Conglomerate parts of the brain which controls sensory, emotional and motivational patterns are activated by the itch sensation. As a result, a message is sent by the brain which makes us scratch the skin. The presence of antihistamines prevents the protein from telling the brain about the itch. Hence, it helps us stop scratching.

Possible agents which cause itch

There are numerous reasons for that irresistible itch on your skin. The causes can vary from very serious to less severe. Some of the reasons are:

·        Lack of moisture or Dry skin

·        Allergic reactions on skin

·        Bug bites

·        Skin condition and rashes

·        Internal diseases

·        Nerve disorders

·        Drugs

·        Pregnancy

·        Poison ivy or toxins

·        Dust

 What happens when an itch occur?

The emotional state, stress and many other factors which differ from person to person decide how much a person can tolerate the urge to itch. The feeling of itch may increase when we have very little to concentrate our thoughts on. This is also a reason for itching sensation during night time. As soon as we feel an itch, the first thing we do is scratching the affected area with our fingernails.

By doing so, we are trying to get rid of the irritant as soon as possible. Scratching off the irritant sends the brain a signal that the itch has been interrupted and it is no longer recognized by the brain. Scratching helps to divert attention from itching even if it doesn’t expunge the irritant completely.

On the other hand, relentless scratching may irritate a lot more nerve endings than the irritant. There have been many studies concerning the odd connection between pain and itch. The interactions between pain and itch are though partly understood.

Scientists believe that the nerves carrying the pain and itch signals overlap at some point or are similar. Consequently, itch was also considered as a light form of pain. Scientific research is still working on this obscure relation.

Now you are deluged with the real science behind itching, next time when to scratch your back, load this up into mind and smile as if you know why you do that! 

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