Fact of the Week -
Scratching an itch only makes it worse. Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine have determined that scratching causes the brain to release a chemical, which intensifies the itch sensation.
Previously scientists knew that scratching creates a small amount of pain in the skin. That pain briefly interferes with itching by getting nerve cells in the spinal cord to carry pain signals to the brain instead of itch signals.
The problem is that when the brain gets those pain signals, it responds by producing serotonin, the well-being and happiness neurotransmitter to help control that pain. But as serotonin spreads from the brain into the spinal cord, we found it can “jump the tracks,” leaking from pain-sensing neurons to stimulate nerve cells that influence itch intensity. Scientists uncovered serotonin's role in controlling pain long ago, but this is the first time the release of the chemical messenger from the brain has been linked to itch.
The research provides new clues that may help break the vicious cycle of itching and scratching, particularly in people who experience chronic itching. Until then scientist suggest that those who itch pay attention to mom's advice and try not to scratch.