Do you get very itchy arm yet your skin looks completely normal? If so, you may be suffering from a condition known as brachioradial pruritus. The patient usually gets itchy forearms, but the irritation can spread to the upper arms and shoulders. You may also feel a stinging, burning, or tingling feeling, with the irritation on one or both of your arms. Although it is very tempting to scratch your arms, this will usually make the itching worse. Many patients find that applying ice packs to the affected areas of the skin improves their symptoms.
Brachioradial pruritus can make you feel itchy, tingling or stinging or a changed sensation on the skin of either or both arms. Brachioradial pruritus develops due to damage to nerves in the cervical spine (neck). This may be caused by:
Continuous pressure on the spinal neurons conveying itch impulses can activate sensitization processes. When nerves transmitting light touch and pinprick sensations are over-stimulated, the patient may develop sensitive or sore skin, with intense responses to touch and pain (conditions known respectively as hyperesthesia and hyperalgesia).
Brachioradial pruritus will typically affect one particular area of the skin (a dermatome), but may spread to other regions. The condition is more common in sunnier climates, as prolonged exposure to sunlight may harm nerve fibers in the skin.
Brachioradial pruritus is usually diagnosed by taking a biopsy of a small piece of skin. This is then examined under a microscope, and doctors may see reduced skin tissue (skin atrophy) and damaged nerves.
Sun exposure can exacerbate the itching, so try to keep out of the sunlight, wear long sleeves, or apply a zinc oxide-based sunscreen.
Dry flaky scales on the skin can easily be irritated by the movement of air and clothing. Both nerve damage and dry skin become more common as we get older, so it is important to frequently apply moisturizer to the skin on your arms.
Ice packs will help to counteract the itching effects of heat, and can inhibit itch nerve impulses from your arms.
Products containing ingredients such as pramoxine, menthol, and/or camphor can help to soothe itchy irritated skin. For further relief, try storing these products in the fridge so that when you apply them, they feel nice and cool on your skin.
Scratching will only worsen your symptoms and damage your skin, making it thick and leathery. It also increases the size of the nerves in the skin, exacerbating sensitivity.
You can also try using the following creams to relieve itchy arms:
As an alternative to traditional treatments, try spraying some antihistamine onto your arms to ease the itching. Topical anti-itching remedies, such as menthol, may also help. Oral tricyclic anti-depressant medications, such as amitriptyline, taken at night can provide some relief. Some patients use oatmeal or tannin (found in black tea) compresses on their arms, whereas others find acupuncture relieves their symptoms.
Itchy arms or brachioradial pruritus is a frustrating and difficult ailment to manage. Finding the right treatment for you requires try-and-error, and a lot of patience, both from yourself and those around you.