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Papers of the Week

Papers: 3 Aug 2019 - 9 Aug 2019



Front Med (Lausanne)


Itch Processing in the Skin.


Schmelz M
Front Med (Lausanne). 2019; 6:167.
PMID: 31380380.


Itching can result from activity of specialized primary afferent neurons ("pruriceptors") that have been shown to express certain molecular markers such as B-type natriuretic peptide and several members of the Mrgpr-family in rodents. On the other hand, neurons involved in pain processing ("nociceptors") can also provoke itching when the activation site is restricted to an isolated tiny spot within the epidermis. Individuals classified as having sensitive skin report increased itching and pain sensations upon weak external stimuli that are not painful or itchy in the control group. Numerous possible factors could contribute to sensitive skin along the pathway of transduction of the external stimuli into peripheral neuronal signals, followed by neuronal processing, finally resulting in the perception: (a) reduced local protective factors leading to impaired skin barrier function, (b) increased production of excitatory skin mediators, (c) sensitized peripheral neurons, (d) facilitated spinal and central processing, and (e) reduced descending inhibition from the central nervous system. For all of those pathophysiological mechanisms there are clinical examples such as atopic dermatitis (a,b,c), neuropathic itching (c,e), and restless leg syndrome (d,e). However, none of these factors have been directly linked to the occurrence of sensitive skin. Moreover, individuals reporting sensitive skin are heterogeneous and a subpopulation with defined pathophysiology has not yet been identified. Given that the condition is reported in about 50% of women, and thereby includes many healthy individuals, it appears problematic to assign a definitive pathophysiological mechanism to it.