December 20, 2018

Shining infrared light on itchy skin may provide relief

You all must probably be wondering why something as trivial as itching is being given so much importance and why researches are conducted to find ways of relieving it! Well, for most of us, if we do get an itch, we scratch it for a while and forget about it. Do read the post Why scratching an itch provides relief and home remedies to relieve itching.  But for those who have eczema, extremely dry skin, psoriasis or any skin ailment that causes chronic itching, it’s not at all that simple. They go crazy unable to bear the severe itching and the incessant scratching that follows to relieve it. It’s for this reason that a search for a long-term, effective cure for itching is still going on!  

man scratching his back
Image credits:Wikipedia



Scratching an itch at a public place can be embarrassing!

Sometimes the urge to scratch an itch strikes when you are in a public place but you are not in a position to scratch it. Besides, it’s also considered bad manners to scratch yourself like mad in public!  What to do during such times? Well, the only thing you can do is exercise restraint, use your will-power and resist the urge but then it’s not possible at all times.  Some people do try hypnosis, imagining that their hands are paralysed or that they are disabled or something to that effect - however all these methods are not at foolproof. You somehow have to find a way to scratch yourself!  Seriously, this is no laughing matter; you’ll feel extremely uncomfortable when you experience such situations.

Shining light can cure itching!

Now there’s some good news for people suffering from chronic itching. An exciting new study has found that this annoying sensation of itching could be stopped by shining a LIGHT on the skin. Yes, it’s true!
As mentioned earlier, itchy skin is a major symptom that many patients of eczema, psoriasis etc  are battling and even find it as life debilitating. And even though scratching an itch provides temporary relief, constant scratching can damage the skin further, creating a vicious cycle.
There are several creams and moisturizers that help deal with itchy skin to some extent but even then they are not able to control chronic itching fully and effectively.
As a part of this research, scientists developed a chemical, called IL31-IR700, which is sensitive to light and binds to itch-sensitive cells on the surface of the skin and this particular chemical was injected into the skin of mice. When this chemical-treated skin was illuminated with near-infrared light, the cells which sense itch retracted from the surface of the skin and made the tingling sensation from the itch stop.

Infrared light on itchy skin does work!

To the delight of the researchers, this method worked well on mice with eczema.  They also found that it benefitted the rodents with a rare genetic disease for which there is currently no cure – amyliodosis.
The best part of this light treatment for itching was that other types of nerve cells in the skin which allows one to feel sensations such as pain, vibration, cold or heat, were not affected. Furthermore, the effect of this treatment lasted several months, suggesting this could be a long-term fix for people who have difficulty finding treatment.

 What about humans?

But the downside to this exciting study is that it may take several years to come up with an effective cure for humans, as the team needs to test its long-term effectiveness and safety on humans.

So what do you all think of this study? Isn’t it a breakthrough for those suffering from chronic itching? Just hoping that it proves to be as effective on humans and provides them with as much relief as it did on mice and rodents.



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