Brachioradial Pruritus: Intensely Itchy Arms

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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.

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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

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
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Hi there - try covering your arms next summer - and you will see, there will be a notable difference in the fall to your itching. It seems that the itching does not occur during the summer months for me, however if I spend a great deal of time in the sun with uncovered arms, I suffer with it terribly in the Fall. Good luck.

November 16, 2015 - 4:40am
EmpowHER Guest

I have been suffering with this condition since early summer and have tried many creams, lotions, anti histamines etc all with no cure. But a friend who has a similar condition suggested I try aveeno skin relief lotion. I am ecstatic to say that after using for only one week morning and night I have had no further attacks. Apparently this product is free from an additive found in many other products. It costs around £4.60 and worth every penny.

October 27, 2015 - 4:18am
EmpowHER Guest

Hi all!

About 2 years ago I was diagnosed with brachioradial pruritus after the CONSTANT itching that only ice could save me from. My doctor prescribed Triamcinolone 0.1% cream and it is a LIFE SAVER. Anytime I feel an itch coming on I lather it on and it keeps me from having an itching attack. I would really recommend it!!

October 21, 2015 - 5:24pm
EmpowHER Guest

My upper arms have been itching for 15 months. I have been to the allergist and the dermatologist and they both shrugged and said 'eczema'. It is NOT eczema! I found this tonight and would be deliriously happy if my arms weren't itching so badly! Thanks for the info about lime juice! Icy Hot works for me on normal nights. (Tonight it is really bad) I will also try the capsaicin and the max stuff someone else suggested. I DID find acupuncture to be helpful!! I've just been working a lot lately (I travel) and have not had consistent appointments. I will share this article with my acupuncturist and find a chiropractor- cover all my bases. Thanks everyone!!!

October 13, 2015 - 8:08pm
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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.


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