Peripheral Sensitization and Loss of Descending Inhibition Is a Hallmark of Chronic Pruritus

Esther M. Pogatzki-Zahn, Manuel P. Pereira, Alexander Cremer, Claudia Zeidler, Tim Dreyer, Claudia Riepe, Carola Wempe, Tobias Lotts, Daniel Segelcke, Matthias Ringkamp, Andreas E. Kremer, Konstantin Agelopoulos, Sonja Ständer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Neurophysiological mechanisms leading to chronicity of pruritus are not yet fully understood and it is not known whether these mechanisms diverge between different underlying diseases of chronic pruritus (CP). This study aimed to detect such mechanisms in CP of various origins. A total of 120 patients with CP of inflammatory origin (atopic dermatitis), neuropathic origin (brachioradial pruritus), and chronic prurigo of nodular type, the latter as a model for chronic scratching, as well as 40 matched healthy controls participated in this study. Stimulation with cowhage induced a more intensive itch sensation compared with stimulation with other substances in all patient groups but not in healthy controls, arguing for sensitization of cutaneous mechano- and heat-sensitive C-fibers in CP. All patient groups showed a decreased intraepidermal nerve fiber density compared with controls. A decreased condition pain modulation effect was observed in all patient groups compared with controls, suggesting a reduced descending inhibitory system in CP. In sum, CP of different etiologies showed a mixed peripheral and central pattern of neuronal alterations, which might contribute to the chronicity of pruritus with no differences between pruritus entities. Our findings may contribute to the development of future treatment strategies targeting these pathomechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)203-211.e4
JournalJournal of Investigative Dermatology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Dermatology
  • Cell Biology


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