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This sensation, called pruritus by dermatologists, has some neurological similarities to pain. It’s your skin’s way of alerting you to a threat, Steinhoff says. Itching can start with a direct stimulus – either real (a leaf brushes your skin) or imagined (you see someone scratching). It can also be triggered by an internal stimulus, such as a histamine release during an allergic reaction. Both types of triggers activate C-fibre nerves, located just below the skin’s surface. They send signals up your spine and into your brain, where regions associated with sensation, emotion and memory light up, says Dr Gil Yosipovitch, a professor of dermatology. Here are 4 Ways To Stop Itching.
Are Your Balls Itchy?
Scratch like a tennis player? Tracing the cause of itchy balls can be tough: it may be an allergic reaction, a hygiene issue, an infection or even a pinched nerve, says Steinhoff. So start with a non-sedating antihistamine and smear on soothing cream once a day. For inflammation, apply a thin layer of hydrocortisone daily (unless you suspect infection). No relief within a week? See a dermatologist.
Why Scratching Equals Ecstasy
Scratching is sort of like a mini-orgasm. “It may activate your reward system,” says Dr Zhou-Feng Chen, director of the Center for the Study of Itch at Washington University in St Louis. Pain may also play a role: if scratching hurts your skin, the pain can help quell the itch because the two sensations are competing.
THE DOWNSIDE: too much clawing can cause injury or infection. If that’s you, firmly rub the area with a chilled cotton T-shirt instead.