July 25, 2017

What Should You Know About Brachioradial Pruritus?

Itching (pruritus) is an unpleasant feeling that can be extremely disturbing, especially at night, when you are trying to sleep. Below, you will find an information about such type of itching as brachioradial pruritus, including its causes, symptoms and treatment options.

Pruritus is a medical term for a condition more commonly known as itching or itchy skin, and it can be defined as an unpleasant sensation on the surface of the skin that causes an instant need to scratch. There are two types of pruritus: localized, which only affects a certain are of the skin, and generalized, which is felt all over the body. In addition, itching may appear either with or without an associated rash. When the condition is caused by the rash, it will most likely be cured. However, non-rash pruritus that occurs without any rash is more difficult to treat, since the cause is more difficult to determine.

In any case, pruritus is an annoying and debilitating skin condition that may have a great impact on a person’s quality of life.

Itching and Pain

Such sensations as itching and pain are closely related to each other, as their associated signals are transmitted to the brain by the same group of nerves. Scratching the area of skin that itches results in that same area becoming even itchier, which in turn causes the need to scratch more. There are various potential causes of itching from a certain problem with skin, such as skin allergy, to an underlying systemic disease. The latter normally causes generalized pruritus, rather than localized.

Brachioradial Pruritus: Symptoms and Causes

Brachioradial pruritus is a type of localized pruritus typically affecting the brachioradialis muscle – the area of the skin from the shoulder to the forearm.

The category of population most commonly affected by brachioradial pruritus includes middle-aged women living in warm climates. However, men of any ages, as well as people all over the world may experience the condition, too.

Tingling, burning and itching on the top of the arm(s) are three major symptoms of brachioradial pruritus. The sensations may also extend to the shoulder and upper back.

Scratching the skin is very unlikely to help relieve the itch. In fact, the symptoms may become worse, if the affected skin is scratched. Therefore, it is important to make a correct diagnosis of the condition to be able to apply a proper treatment.

It is not completely understood what exactly causes brachioradial pruritus. However, some experts tend to connect the condition with chronic exposure to solar radiation and cervical spine disease.

Connection between brachioradial pruritus and chronic sun exposure may be explained by the fact that chronic exposure to ultraviolet radiation often causes the damage of nerve fibers inside the skin making the nerves more sensitive to itching. Brachioradial pruritus symptoms are also considered to be potentially caused by the compression of the nerves that exit the spinal cord from the cervical spine in the neck.

Therefore, people with cervical spine disease chronically exposed to the solar radiation are most likely to develop brachioradial pruritus.

Diagnosis and Treatment

In fact, it is difficult to find the right treatment for brachioradial pruritus symptoms, as it is difficult to make a correct diagnosis.

Since the symptoms are similar to those of other skin conditions causing itches, you may be prescribed various itching treatment medications, such as oral antihistamines or topical corticosteroids. However, these options are not effective against brachioradial pruritus. Neither is the application of heat, which actually may worsen the symptoms. On the other hand, the application of cold, e.g. ice packs, can reduce the symptoms for a certain period.

A good dermatologist can often diagnose brachioradial pruritus correctly, based on such factors as location of the itching, ineffectiveness of usual treatments for itching, as well as temporary relief due to the application ice packs.

In addition, the diagnosis of brachioradial pruritus may be considered based on the x-rays of the cervical spine showing degenerative disc disease or osteoarthritis.

Specialist have been trying to treat brachioradial pruritus by various therapies, some of which have shown to be successful and some not.  Thus, some of the most effective treatments available for this condition include:

  • Topical capsaicin cream. This is the most commonly used and effective option; however, the regular use of the cream can cause skin irritation.
  • Cervical spine manipulation therapy performed by a chiropractor.
  • Oral medications for nerve pain (gabapentin) and for seizures (carbamazepine, lamotrigine).
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