Itching is a sense of irritation or tingling in the skin, which makes you want to scratch. There are many different causes for itching including everyday dry skin, insect bites, sunburn, rashes, contact dermatitis, and more. A recent study published in the journal PLOS One helps explain why we itch and what parts of the brain are stimulated by itching and scratching. One finding is that scratching oneself results in greater stimulation of the parts of our brain that signify pleasure and reward than does having someone else scratch us. Not all itching is a result of common skin problems like an insect bite or occasional dry skin. There are types of chronic itching that can be more severe that are caused by various skin or internal diseases.


The kind of itching that most people know about is the one that comes from hives or mosquito bites. Skin cells release histamine, which sends nerve signals to your brain, which tell you that you need to scratch. Histamine is part of the body’s immune response to foreign pathogens. Creams or pills that contain antihistamine will usually help relieve this kind of itching.

Itching is also commonly associated with exposure to UV rays from the sun. Sunburns sometimes result in peeling dead skin, which can lead to irritation and itching. UV radiation is both harmful to your skin health and appearance so always remember to wear sun block and limit excessive exposure to the sun.


Chronic itching is often not helped by antihistamines and is caused by skin diseases like eczema and psoriasis. With chronic itching, other substances beside histamine are involved in producing the reaction and therefore other treatments need to be considered.

In general if you are experiencing itchiness you shouldn’t scratch the area although it may provide temporary relief. Continued scratching will only further irritate the area and make the problem worse. If you are experiencing chronic itching then you should contact your dermatologist as soon as possible to get on the path to finding relief.


If you think you are experiencing chronic itching or have other skin concerns schedule an appointment with one of our dermatologists to get treated promptly. We also perform patch testing to identify the cause and to eliminate the root problem. We have 13 offices conveniently located in New York in Manhattan, Queens, Westchester, Brooklyn, Nassau, and Suffolk, and offices in Ridgewood and Summit New Jersey. For more information: Contact Us.

Related Media

Book an In-Office or Virtual Appointment