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Brachioradial Pruritus: Intensely Itchy Arms

By HERWriter
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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 Comment91 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I have also suffered with this so called BP condition over the past 3 years,and have found it so so frustrating to the point of itching my skin off!.
I believe i have cured this with the use of a cream called eumovate...it works for me and i have had nothing whatsoever now for over 3 weeks. Hope this helps

August 15, 2017 - 7:13pm
EmpowHER Guest

I have all of these symptoms and also on the legs. When the dermatologist diagnosed me with BP, she could tell me the reason that I also have it on my legs. I'm getting acupuncture treatment right now and i also had to take out all dairy products in my diet. after 10 days i was expose to the sun and it happened again. I'm really frustrated. I understand the arms but legs...???

August 14, 2017 - 11:52am
EmpowHER Guest

Hi. After experiencing again this as you describe it, googling this and finding your forum, reading your possible causes, pondering my own problem and then remembering where it all started for me. Short answer, I am allergic to a certain famous washing powder. I probably am not allowed to use the name of the product.
Recently my better half switched to this certain clothing washing powder again just because the store was not stocking the alternative, forgetting that I have this problem, never telling me of course. The times of my terrible itchy and scratchy bouts coincide with the wrong washing powder being used.
The worst spot is my right arm just below the elbow. I use a right hand steering vehicle if you wish to argue the sun burn thing. At night I wake finding myself progressively trying to rip the flesh off my bones.
I get up, get burnt skin lotion, 1ste aid stuff, and try get to sleep again, desperately trying to ignore the pain.
My other arm on the same place has it too, but lesser. In fact, is on all the joints.
As a child my mom took my for allergy tests because of the itching. Atropical Eczema they said, getting older it was Winters Feet, could not wear those military boots when I was supposed to. Now it's back again, it all correlates to using the wrong washing powder on my clothes at times. When I roll up my sleeves,the itching subsides almost instantly.
If my better half does not finish rewashing everything, I'll start burning all my clothes soon.
Hope this helps you.

August 2, 2017 - 1:06am
EmpowHER Guest

I found something that is working for me!
Have had this problem for 10-15 years, starts in the summer and goes away late fall. Worse when I am at rest, if I am keeping busy with my hands then not so noticeable. Tried the creams-ointments-home remedies-chiropractors, MRIs - lyrica, etc. Ice helps but is only temporary relief. Avoiding the sun also helped as did avoiding caffeine which seemed to exacerbate it . Trying to sleep was awful and thought I would lose my mind!
This summer it started again, used wet cloths and lyric to fight it off. Then spoke with my primary care physician and asked her if she would give me a kenalog injection in my arm. This has worked for me, been 3 weeks, have some slight sensations from time to time and have not taken any lyrica since 4 days after the injection. Able to work outside in the sun, drink a cola once in awhile, and sleep through the night. Life is good again.

July 30, 2017 - 7:05pm
HERWriter Guide (reply to Anonymous)

Thank you for sharing what has worked for you, Anon. This may help our other readers who have yet to find a solution.



July 31, 2017 - 7:12am
EmpowHER Guest

I'm wondering if these itchy arms can be associated with Fibromyalgia? I have itching sensations off and on all over my body, but just recently, it has attacked my arms. I have found that Ibuprofen stops it. Seems to be effective up to eight-ten hours. Like everything else with this crazy illness, I know it will just up and disappear and another symptom will creep up.

July 7, 2017 - 10:04am
EmpowHER Guest

It's me again! I've been watching this section for 12 months now. I never had this itching symptom on my arms before until last year. It started during the winter months here in Perth, WA. I almost scratched my arms off and scars developed through the irresistible scratching. I tried all home and backyard remedies to no avail and it just got worse. So I went to my doctor who prescribed to me a cream called Advantan 0.1% 15G and it cured the itchiness and scars like a miracle. Guess what? It started again just a few weeks ago on the onset of winter here in Perth. So the cold weather has something to do with it and my hunch is the dry air. Perhaps a good moisturiser applied regularly on your skin will bring relief? However I had to get another script from my doctor for more Advantan cream. I re-applied Advantan 0.1% 15G again on my arms and after a few days all itching and the small corpuscles (blisters) underneath the skin have disappeared. I strongly recommend Advantan 0.1% because it works for me (and another friend who gets it all over his body!!). However do speak to your doctor who will diagnose you, if not, seek a specialist or second or third opinion. Everybody is different and please don't self-diagnose because you may be wrong. Good luck and I hope you find a cure or some soothing relief quickly.

June 21, 2017 - 6:40pm
EmpowHER Guest

My left arm from my shoulder down right before my elbow but in the crevice of my arm where my arm bends by my armpit gets pretty itchy this is going on to two years and when I first noticed it itching it was while I was going to a tanning salon so after a while I stopped and the itching went away after a while and a few years later I decided to go tanning again and after a while I noticed my arm started itching again and it was the same arm so I eventually stopped tanning thinking it was going to stop again but this time it hasn't stopped I've seen like 5 doctors had blood work no creams help they tell me that it's coming from inside me only on the left arm which I don't understand it didn't seem like it did start calming down a lot but I am noticing now I think because it's so hot out it made it start and get even worse so I definitely think Heat sets It Off! I literally want to rip my hair out out of nowhere I'll just get such an intense itch and sometimes no matter how much I itch it it just keeps itching I have no idea what to do about it when I first started I was icing it every day which did help but it always came back if anybody has any suggestions for me please contact me these doctors obviously don't know what they're talking about

June 20, 2017 - 7:00pm
EmpowHER Guest

I have had this for 11 years. As you all know it is awful and can consume your life. I've tried everything and seen every doctor which all thought I was crazy and prescribed different creams and pills. Last summer I went to the chiropractor and she could tell my neck was curved. I've never been in an accident or hurt that area of my body. I went 3 times a week for about 2 months then decreased the frequency gradually and now I go once a month. I got adjustments and massages on my neck and shoulders. This was the first fall/winter in over a decade that I was symptom free. Just wanted to pass along what worked for me. Fingers crossed it stays away!!!

May 3, 2017 - 5:02am
EmpowHER Guest

I suffered with brachioradial puritus for 4 long years. The doctor just kept giving me an atopic cream which did nothing. After barely sleeping for 4 years and at tiles just wanting to cut my arms off, I had a blood test which found I had hypothyroidism (Hasimoto's disease). I started taking thyroxine and within a few days my arms had totally stopped itching. So if you have insanely itchy arms keep sure your doctor gives you a blood test and tests for everything.

April 28, 2017 - 12:33am
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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.