Facebook Pixel

Brachioradial Pruritus: Intensely Itchy Arms

Rate This
Brachioradial Pruritus: Intensely Itchy Arms 4 5 3
itchy arms
Via Wikipedia

People who have intensely itchy arms but have skin that appears totally normal may be suffering from condition called brachioradial pruitus. It can occur to one or both arms. Typically the itching is on the back of the forearm but may extend to the upper arms and shoulders. Scratching the itching areas seems to only make it worse and some people find that applying ice packs are the only way to get some relief.

Brachioradial pruritus was first reported in 1968 in Florida and seems to occur more to people who live warmer, humid climates. The condition is thought to be caused by a neuropathy. Neuropathies occur when nerves are disrupted by some event (for example, infection or injury) so pain is felt even when there is nothing stimulating it. In the case of brachioradial pruritus, the pain is transmitted as an itching sensation.

There are two theories believed to be the cause of brachioradial pruritus. The first is the sun hypothesis, where it is thought that people who have had chronic sun exposure develop an allergic type of histamine response in their skin. The fact that people with brachioradial pruirtus tend to have worse symptoms on their left arm, which is the driving side of the car and gets more sun exposure goes along with this hypothesis.

The alternate cause of brachioradial pruritus is believed to be due to some type of cervical (neck area) nerve damage. Treatments for cervical arthritis have shown improvement in those with the condition. However, there are critics to both theories. The sun 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? The cervical nerve damage critics point out that cervical neck degeneration occurs to 70 percent of elderly women and 95 percent of elderly men so without further studies it doesn’t make sense that many other older adults don’t develop this condition.

Regardless of cause, brachioradial pruritus does have some treatments that may help. Most people describe the itching as prickly and burning and that can keep them awake at night. Ice packs are the first best therapy to try to stop the itch.

Add a Comment43 Comments

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
EmpowHER Guest

I have had this condition for a good number of years.. On my right arm, iam a Lorry driver in the uk and this always seems to flare up in summer it drives me nuts and have discovered that cold things are the only relief, iam 44 years old and do occasionally get neck pain, it's only my right arm that's affected

December 19, 2015 - 3:04pm
EmpowHER Guest

Cervical traction with a home device (used in a horizontal body position) seems to relieve some of the pressure on cervical nerves. In addition, Lidocaine 5% patches (manufactured by Watson/Actavis Pharmaceuticals) placed each evening on shoulders and arms provide significant, beneficial, and effective relief. Patches are worn for 12 hours and help the BRP sufferer to sleep at night. The benefits seem to carry over into the following day. Lastly, Aspercream with 4% Lidocaine provides on-the-spot short term relief. Effective hygiene includes cool or cold showers with only Cetaphil used on arms and shoulders.

November 19, 2015 - 3:14am
EmpowHER Guest

I have just started getting the itch on my shoulders, it started up last night at around 3:00 for no reason. Its the middle of November and I live in Northern Wisconsin so it's usually cloudy or snowing.

November 18, 2015 - 7:11am
EmpowHER Guest

Hiya I live in England so the sun isn't really a problem, I've had severe itchy arms ever since I got sunburnt on holiday ( never again ) it flares up for no reason and drives me mad , I'm messaging this at 2.30am because I can't sleep with the itching , haven't been to doctors about it because last time I went he made me feel I was mad , I've brought some aver no skin releif so wish me luck , but I'll also try lime juice and some Lancôme , I'm so fed up of itching and it drives my family mad

November 16, 2015 - 7:43pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Hi, if you're on Facebook there's a group on there that will help. Get some ice packs as if it's this you're going to need it. You'll need to be referred to a neurologist for an mri. There's a lot of English people there so that rules out the sun being the problem.
Me personally, I have a degenerating spine that is causing mine, now on a trial and error medication (and lots of ice) until we find something that works. Good luck

November 30, 2015 - 6:06am
EmpowHER Guest

I have had the itching since August 2009 and it really itches at night on my wrists and forearms the only relief I get is if I shave my arms and use psoriasis cream but it don't work all the time when I use cream. It lasts for 6 months at a time and there's time I rub my arms raw but I feels much better.

November 15, 2015 - 7:13pm
EmpowHER Guest

I've had this condition the months following my honeymoon, where I suffered from extensive sun damage. That was 29 years ago. Each October, I have intensely itchy forearms for months - and the only true relief is indeed ice. I find that if I don't cover my arms enough during the previous summer, the attack the following fall is far worse. For me, there is NO doubt this is sun related. Years that I have covered my arms in the sun, I barely notice the problem.

November 12, 2015 - 3:49pm
EmpowHER Guest

I have been suffering with this problem for years, but only in the fall. Every year from September through November or December. Ice has always been the only thing to help. I really don't think it has anything to do with the sun. I have a swimming pool, & spend a lot of time in the sun during summer. I don't itch then. I've begun to wonder if it has anything to do with allergies, as I have more sinus problems in fall than any other time of year. Who knows. . . I've asked my dermatologist about it on more than one occasion. She didn't know what the problem was either. Really!?!? She said it was probably eczema and suggested using perfume free detergent, soap, lotion. None of which has stopped it! I am so excited to have stumbled onto this site! Now I know I'm not crazy! I will try some of the creams suggested, and the lime juice. Thanks so much!

November 4, 2015 - 12:36am
Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy
Add a Comment

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


4262 Health


2723 Lives


2534 Lives
9 lives impacted in the last 24 hrs Learn More

Take Our Featured Health Poll

When going out in the sun, what SPF do you put on?:
View Results