Neurodermatitis, also known as lichen simplex chronicus is a skin condition that usually starts as a patch of itchy skin. It mainly exists in an itch-scratch cycle, where the more a person scratches, the more the itching continues. This continuous cycle of itching and scratching causes the affected skin to become thick and leathery.
Neurodermatitis is chiefly a non-life-threatening condition, but the continuous itching can be so intense or recurrent that it disrupts the normal quality of life. Although neurodermatitis can occur anywhere on the body, it is most commonly found on the wrists, hands, arms, shoulders, elbows, legs, ankles, back of the neck, or scalp. The anal and genital areas and the face might also itch. The itching can sometimes be intense, causing frequent scratching, or it might come and go. It is usually most active when the patient is relaxing or trying to sleep. The patient might also wake up suddenly scratching or rubbing the affected area in some cases.
Although the definite cause of neurodermatitis is still unknown, several
studies observed that the itching could start during extreme stress, anxiety, emotional trauma, or depression. The persistent rubbing and scratching that characterize this condition may start with something that simply irritates the skin, such as an insect bite, tight clothing, or exposure to environmental irritants. As the person rubs or scratches the affected area, it gets itchier. The more one scratches, the more it itches vigorously.
Other triggers for neurodermatitis include:
- Dry skin
- Nerve injury
- Skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis
Certain causative factors that increase the risk of neurodermatitis include:
Age: It is mainly common in people within the age group of 30 and 50
Sex: Women are more at risk of developing this condition than men
Other Skin Conditions: People with a personal or family history of dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, or similar skin conditions have a higher incidence of getting neurodermatitis
Anxiety Issues: Anxiety, stress, and conditions like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder are very much likely to trigger the itch of neurodermatitis
The characteristic signs and symptoms of neurodermatitis include:
- A single patch or patches of skin that is itchy
- Leathery or scaly texture of the affected areas
- A raised, rough patch or patches that are red or darker than the rest of your skin
- Intense pain in the affected area
- Scarring due to continuous scratching
- Loss of hair if itching and scratching occurs on the scalp
- Open sores which may bleed due to repeated scratching
- Infection at the affected site is characterized by sores with yellow-colored crusts, fluid discharge, or pus-filled bumps
Suppose the condition is not treated on time. In that case, the persistent scratching can often lead to a wound, a bacterial skin infection, permanent scars, and even permanent changes in the skin color. The repeated itching of neurodermatitis can also affect a person’s sleep, sexual function, and quality of life.
Diagnosis And Treatment
In case you notice any of the signs mentioned above and symptoms, do consult a doctor at the earliest. The doctor usually diagnoses neurodermatitis by examining the affected skin and acknowledging the patient’s family history and past medical history. The doctor also asks the patient a few questions, like when the itching first started, how often it came, and whether the patient has tried any home remedies for the itching. The doctor may also conduct some diagnostics, which include:
- Patch testing to learn whether an allergy is the root cause of the problem
- Skin swab tests to detect if there is an infection
- Fungal tests to find out skin disorders in the genital area and to cross out sexually transmitted infections
- Skin biopsy to rule out psoriasis, mycosis, and fungicides, which is a form of lymphoma
- Blood tests
Neurodermatitis though not life-threatening, doesn’t subside on its own. The doctor usually tailors a perfect treatment plan depending on the patient, which helps stop the itching and scratching. It usually involves:
- Corticosteroid injections
- Anti-itch medicated creams
- Capsaicin creams
- Coal tar preparations
- Anti-anxiety medications
- Medicated patches
- Light therapy
The doctor might also suggest coverings like bandages, gloves, or socks to prevent itching or use cool compression on the affected area before applying medicine for better penetration.