Causes and Therapies: Neurodermatitis – The irresistible urge to scratch


Neurodermatitis, also known as lichen simplex chronicus, is a chronic skin condition characterized by intense itching and scratching. It is a condition that affects both children and adults, causing significant discomfort and distress. In this article, we will explore the causes of neurodermatitis and discuss various therapies available to manage and alleviate its symptoms.

Causes of Neurodermatitis

Neurodermatitis is believed to be a multifactorial condition, meaning that several factors contribute to its development. The exact cause of neurodermatitis is not fully understood, but there are several known triggers that can exacerbate the symptoms. These triggers include:

1. Skin Irritation

Skin irritation, such as dryness, rough fabrics, or harsh chemicals, can trigger neurodermatitis. When the skin becomes irritated, it can lead to intense itching, which in turn leads to scratching. This scratching can further damage the skin, creating a vicious cycle of itching and scratching.

2. Emotional Stress

Stress and emotional factors have been found to play a significant role in the development and exacerbation of neurodermatitis. Stress can trigger the release of certain chemicals in the body that can cause itching and inflammation. Additionally, stress can lead to increased scratching as a coping mechanism, further worsening the condition.

3. Genetic Predisposition

There is evidence to suggest that neurodermatitis may have a genetic component. Individuals with a family history of atopic dermatitis or other allergic conditions are more likely to develop neurodermatitis. However, having a genetic predisposition does not guarantee the development of the condition, as environmental factors also play a crucial role.

Therapies for Neurodermatitis

While there is no cure for neurodermatitis, several therapies can help manage and alleviate its symptoms. The choice of therapy depends on the severity of the condition and the individual’s response to treatment. Here are some commonly used therapies for neurodermatitis:

1. Topical Steroids

Topical steroids are the most commonly prescribed treatment for neurodermatitis. These medications help reduce inflammation and itching, providing relief to the affected areas. However, long-term use of topical steroids should be avoided, as it can lead to skin thinning and other side effects.

2. Moisturizers

Regularly applying moisturizers can help hydrate the skin and reduce dryness, which can alleviate itching and prevent flare-ups. It is essential to choose moisturizers that are fragrance-free and hypoallergenic to avoid further irritation.

3. Antihistamines

Antihistamines are commonly used to manage the itching associated with neurodermatitis. These medications work by blocking the release of histamine, a chemical that causes itching and inflammation. Antihistamines can be taken orally or applied topically, depending on the individual’s preference and the severity of the symptoms.

4. Stress Management

Since stress can exacerbate neurodermatitis symptoms, stress management techniques can be beneficial in managing the condition. Techniques such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga can help reduce stress levels and promote relaxation, thereby reducing the urge to scratch.

5. Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy, such as habit reversal training, can be effective in breaking the itch-scratch cycle associated with neurodermatitis. This therapy aims to identify triggers and develop alternative behaviors to scratching, such as using a cold compress or engaging in a distracting activity.

6. Phototherapy

Phototherapy involves exposing the affected skin to controlled amounts of ultraviolet light. This treatment can help reduce inflammation and itching associated with neurodermatitis. However, it is essential to undergo phototherapy under the supervision of a healthcare professional to minimize the risk of side effects.


Neurodermatitis is a chronic skin condition characterized by intense itching and scratching. While the exact cause of neurodermatitis is not fully understood, triggers such as skin irritation, emotional stress, and genetic predisposition have been identified. Various therapies, including topical steroids, moisturizers, antihistamines, stress management techniques, behavioral therapy, and phototherapy, can help manage and alleviate the symptoms of neurodermatitis. It is essential for individuals with neurodermatitis to work closely with healthcare professionals to develop a personalized treatment plan that suits their specific needs. With proper management and care, individuals with neurodermatitis can find relief from the irresistible urge to scratch.