While the enormous clinical and psychosocial importance of pruritus in many areas of medicine and the detrimental effects of chronic 'itch' on the quality of life of an affected individual are widely appreciated, the complexity of this sensation is still often grossly underestimated. The current Controversies feature highlights this complexity by portraying pruritus as a truly interdisciplinary problem at the crossroads of neurophysiology, neuroimmunology, neuropharmacology, protease research, internal medicine, and dermatology, which is combated most successfully if one keeps the multilayered nature of 'itch' in mind and adopts a holistic treatment approach - beyond the customary, frequently frustrane monotherapy with histamine receptor antagonists. In view of the often unsatisfactory, unidimensional, and altogether rather crude standard instruments for pruritus management that we still tend to use in clinical practice today, an interdisciplinary team of pruritus experts here critically examines recent progress in pruritus research that future itch management must take into consideration. Focusing on new insights into the neuroimmunological, neuroendocrine, and neurophysiological bases of pruritus, and discussing available neuropharmacological tools, specific research avenues are highlighted, whose pursuit promises to lead to novel, and hopefully more effective, forms of pruritus management.
- Dermatology and Venereal Diseases