Neurodermatitis is a skin condition associated with an itch.
Also known as lichen simplex chronicus, neurodermatitis usually begins with a patch of itchy skin. The patch may come and go, but the itch often intensifies over time.
Neurodermatitis is not contagious and cannot be passed to others. The condition can occur in both men and women, but is most often common in women between the ages of 30 and 50. The exact cause is not known, but stress, tight clothing, bug bites, dry skin and other irritants that cause the nerves in the skin to overreact can trigger the condition.
The itch in neurodermatitis is often worse at night or while relaxing. The rash can occur anywhere on the body, but common areas for the rash to develop include the anal and genital areas, arms, legs or back of the neck. Individuals usually develop only one or two patches.
Persistent scratching and rubbing can cause the skin patch to become red and scaly and open sores may develop, leading to an increased risk of infection. The skin patch may also appear red to violet in color and feel thick and leathery. If the patch is located on the scalp, hair loss can occur.
It’s important to see a dermatologist for symptoms of itch and skin irritation to determine the exact cause, since many skin conditions, including eczema and psoriasis, present with similar symptoms.
Your dermatologist may use one or more of the following treatments to stop the itch and promote healing:
- Corticosteroid creams or injections
- Cool compresses
- Anti-anxiety medications
- Light therapy
- Coal tar preparations
- Capsaicin or doxepin creams
Covering skin patches at night may help deter nighttime scratching. If skin is infected, your dermatologist may prescribe antibiotic pills or ointment.
Once neurodermatitis heals, it can return. Controlling stress and anxiety may reduce the risk of recurrence. Some patients find psychotherapy to be beneficial. Talk with your dermatologist about ways to identify and control other triggers as well.