Usually, individuals suffering from eczema tend to experience chronic itching which can be torturous at times. Worse, in such instances, antihistamines which are the standard allergy and itching treatment offer little help.
Researchers discover a new pathway for treating Eczema
A study by Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, researchers has revealed that the acute itch episodes that eczema patients experience are due to allergens in the environment. Researchers indicate that the itching is often unresponsive to antihistamines because the itch signals are communicated to the brain along an unrecognized pathway not targeted by drugs currently. The study shows a possible new target and strategy that can help eczema patients.
Brian Kim, an associate professor of medicine and principal study author, said that in the past there has been a belief that the pain and itch are communicated along the same pathway in the nerves to the brains but that is far from true. He said that the new findings show that there is a different pathway that causes the acute itching episodes in eczema patients. Kim said the itching can be torturous and although patients rate chronic itch at 5 on a scale of 10, sometimes it goes up to 10 when experiencing acute itch flares. He explained that since researchers have established that the transmission of the acute flares is entirely in a different pathway, it is now easy to target that subway and help eczema patients.
Acute itching signal in eczema transmitted by different cells in the bloodstream
Interestingly, the typical itching pathway in eczema involves skin cells, which get activated to release histamine that antihistamine drugs can inhibit. However, in acute itching, there is a different cell type in the bloodstream that transmits signals to nerves. The cells produce too much of a non-histamine substance which triggers itching thus rendering antihistamines ineffective.
Kim said that they connected itching in eczema to allergic reactions transmitted by different cells. He said that blocking the transmission pathway with drugs represents a strategy to treat itching as well as other problems such as hay fever and asthma.