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Brachioradial Pruritus: Intensely Itchy Arms

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Intensely Itchy Arms From Brachioradial Pruritus Via Wikipedia

Brachioradial pruritus (BP) is a condition where the person experiences intense itching, burning and/or stinging to one or both arms. The itching often occurs between the shoulder and the elbow on the sides of the arms but can also extend up to the shoulders.

Scratching can make the itching feel worse, rather than bringing relief. Using ice packs is one treatment that may calm the itch.

Why brachioradial pruritus occurs is unclear. There are two basic mechanisms that are thought to be the cause of this uncontrollable itch.

The first is the solar hypothesis. It is thought that people who have had chronic sun exposure develop an allergic type of histamine response in their skin.

This theory receives some support from the fact that people usually report more left-sided symptom over right-sided. This could be explained by the sun shining more on the left arm while driving.

In South Africa, where drivers sit on the right side of the car, the incidence of BP more frequently affects the right arm. Symptoms also often are worse in the summer and improve in the fall.

The second hypothesis is that BP may be caused by a neuropathy (problem with the nerves), specifically some type of irritation or compression of the cervical nerves in the neck. Treatments for cervical arthritis have shown to improve those with the condition.

This type of itching is called a neuropathic itch. Impulses are sent due to hypersensitivity of the nerve fibers. Sometimes people feel both pain and itching, as well as some type of sensory disruption such as altered sensation in the area.

A 1987 study even suggested that BP may be caused by a combination of the two stating that, “brachioradial pruritus is a photoneurological disorder caused by sun-induced damage to nerve endings that results in pruritus and altered sensation in susceptible individuals.”2

Another dermatology blog suggests that exposure to wind may also contribute.3

However, there are critics to both main theories.

The solar critics point out that people’s faces get just as much sun as the arms, so why doesn’t one’s face develop this problem?

1)  Brachioradial Pruritus. Medscape. Retrieved August 13, 2016.  

2) Berny-Moreno , Joanna, Szepietowski  Jacek C.. Neuropathic itch caused by nerve root compression: brachioradial pruritus and notalgia paresthetica. Serbian Journal of Dermatology and Venereology 2009; 2: 68-72.

3) Thoughts about brachioradial pruritus.  The Online Journal of Community and Person-Centered Dermatology (OJCPCD). Retrieved August 13, 2016.  

Add a Comment52 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I have been suffering from my arms itching for over 10 years, it gets so painful to be honest it feels like bugs or sometimes bee's stinging and biting me from the inside of my arms :( the only thing that helps to calm it down is having my arms packed down with ice and usually it is at night time, if I am exposed to sunlight my skin will sometimes Crack open and bleed, also if I get my nerves so rattled up the itching becomes intense, I have been to many hospitals saw many many different doctors and dermatologists, I also saw neurologist that have claimed that this is all in my head :( I have had many different creams prescribed that never had no effect on my problem. I have had biopsy on my arms I have been tested for many things and there have never been any answers to why this is happening. July 1st , 2006 my daughter took me to the tanning bed Salon because I was getting married in one week the lady said she would set the timer for 5 minutes because I have very very fine skin well I went into the tanning room late on the tanning bed the fan was on music was playing and I kind of fell asleep the lady in the front was on the phone with someone for all that time she had forgotten to set the timer I must have laid back there for over 30 minutes it took me 2 months to not look like a lobster anymore one week after the tanning bed or deal and I've got married I began to start its in my arms severely at night every night it was the same thing then I decided to put some cold ice on it and once a month my arms the pain was gone but if I was to lay in bed and put the covers on one and get too hot the same thing happened again I needed to get up and get ice it has been over 10 years now and I am still suffering with the same problem having to put ice on my arms every night I can not go to the beach and enjoy a fun time with my kids or grandkids I am limited when it comes to going outside and being in the sun I wish that I could find a doctor that can prescribe something to help me so I will be able to enjoy life again and go outside with the kids I just felt like I needed to share my story I am so tired of living this way please God let them find a way to come up with a solution for my problem... Christine

August 22, 2016 - 1:54pm
EmpowHER Guest

I knew I couldn't be the only one with this problem! I thought it was the dry California air, but noticed it flares up after hours of weed Wacking and grass cutting in spring and summer. My arms get a lot of sun during these months and I've tried Quatroderm and moisturizing lotions with not much relief. Will try the lime juice and coconut oil infused with cannibis oil. The Kwan Loong oil seems to be working. I just put some on after reading that it might work. The burn is a welcome relief to the itch!

August 5, 2016 - 3:32am
EmpowHER Guest

I'm so relieved to have found this article. I live in England but two years ago changed my lifestyle and now spend much of the winter in sunny South Africa. This itching is a new phenomenon for me. The first attack was in South Africa and I thought it must be insect bites but how could it be without any physical evidence? The itching affects the elbow end of the forearm and sometimes it feels like tiny needles are piercing the skin. I had another attack in South Africa this last winter and a few days ago, here in England's summer, it flared up again hence my search for an explanation. I haven't had back or neck problems but I do have the red hair gene that makes my skin more susceptible to sun damage. No one else has mentioned this but I do wonder if it's a factor. But why just the forearms? That makes no sense. My shoulders get more sun. I shall try all the solutions mentioned and try to resist scratching!

July 29, 2016 - 1:14am
EmpowHER Guest

I apply Technu as a lotion to clean skin and it helps. I put it on in the early evening before the itch starts and it does help. I also think Vit D helps.

July 8, 2016 - 12:29pm
EmpowHER Guest

Hello, I suffered from this for more that 2 years and i drove me mad. I went, on recommendation from a friend, to a "healer" and he just put his hands on my back (I was lying down) I went into a kind of sleepy or relaxing "trance". I have to say I had really weird half dreams and experiences during this session. I had a few sessions and the icing went away. I wasn't really sure what he did until my wife started getting in Bio Energetic Healing and through this, I realized this was what he was doing.
This was 3 years ago and since then my wife treated me but only a few times, and I haven't had a recurrence. But she treats me regularly for various things. She uses methods from, Frank Kinslow (QE), William Bengston ((Energy Healing), Ursula Fallet (ENKOMP), Touch For Health, Innerwise.
If you can find someone who practises Bio Energetic, give it a try. Another method is Cranialsacral.
I also found this link - https://www.drbaileyskincare.com/info/blog/post/a-new-explanation-for-in...
This has confirmed my original suspicion that it was connected with my back problems and aggravated by the sun.
Good luck

June 12, 2016 - 10:20am
EmpowHER Guest

I am so glad I found this article and site so I can read all the comments. I started getting severe itching, only to my left arm, about 4 years ago. It did start at my shoulder and now has worked its way down my arm. It commonly happens at night, and yes, wakes me. I do live in Florida as well. I scratch so hard that I have created small scabs. I am going to try all of the recommendations commented.

June 11, 2016 - 6:15am
EmpowHER Guest

I have this when I'm exposed to sun for long time. I'm in Florida. Over the counter ointment does not work on me. What helped me big time, is Bactroban and Clovate N ointment. Look it up fellow sufferers, might help you.

April 14, 2016 - 8:08pm
EmpowHER Guest

I have had this condition for almost 30 years after a honeymoon in Mexico and sun exposure. The itching is always between my wrist and elbow. Within the past 3 months, it is finally gone. How? I suffer from lower back pain and have been in traction to release the pressure on my spine. I have read in here how others have benefitted from traction, but to their neck, as the itch has something also to do with a compressed nerve in the spine. Unbelievably, the itch is now gone. I have also purchased an inversion table. I can finally sleep at night. Amazing is an understatement.

March 28, 2016 - 2:28am
EmpowHER Guest

This incredible itching is between my forearm and elbow and there have been times when I could have sawn my arm off to stop it. I explain it by saying "it feels like my artery is itching". It started after a two week holiday in Australia (although I always use factor 50 sunblock in the sun and always have). Three doctors appointments so far - anti-biotics for cellulitis, didnt work. 4 different anti-histimines didnt work. Now prescribed 300mg aspirin daily - we shall see. Really happy to have stumbled on this site :)

I have a lime in the fridge and think I shall crack it open before bedtime. Thanks for the info

January 7, 2016 - 11:40am
EmpowHER Guest

I've had this problem for about 5 years now. Only occurs in the fall & winter. I think both theories of causation are correct. When I explain it to other people I refer to it as an itch that won't be satisfied with scratching it. It seems to me that its a nerve problem because I did injure my spine, which also caused the top part my leg to go numb. I think its sun exposure as well because it's predominantly a left arm problem for me. Sarnia lotion has helped to provide some temporary relief but doesn't always work. I have noticed the condition gets worse after a hot shower. I'm going to hang upside down on my inversion chair, start taking cold showers year round, and try to use those Lidocaine 5% patches and or the aveeno - thanks to all who contributed.

January 4, 2016 - 2:52pm
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