Scatching Makes It Itch More

It's probably happened to you.  A mosquito bite starts itching, and the minute you scratch, it itches more.  It may sound like an oxymoron but scratching actually does make it itch more.

According to a new study by scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that scratching causes the brain to release serotonin, which intensifies the itch sensation, reports.

 Scientists have known for decades that scratching creates a mild amount of pain in the skin, the Web site quotes senior investigator Zhou-Feng Chen, PhD, director of Washington University’s Center for the Study of Itch. That pain can interfere with itching — at least temporarily — by getting nerve cells in the spinal cord to carry pain signals to the brain instead of itch signals.

“The problem is that when the brain gets those pain signals, it responds by producing the neurotransmitter serotonin to help control that pain,” Chen explained. “But as serotonin spreads from the brain into the spinal cord, we found the chemical can ‘jump the tracks,’ moving from pain-sensing neurons to nerve cells that influence itch intensity.”


Scientists uncovered serotonin’s role in controlling pain decades ago, but this is the first time the release of the chemical messenger from the brain has been linked to itch, Chen said.

The study showed that scratching can relieve itch by creating minor pain. But when the body responds to pain signals, that response actually can make itching worse.

So the next time you get that urge to scratch, go eat a cookie -- or do something pleasurable -- instead.


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