Quality of Life and Pruritus

  • J. C. Szepietowski
  • A. Reich
Reference work entry


 Pruritus is defined as an unpleasant sensation leading to intensive scratching. It is the most common symptom in dermatology that may occur with or without visible skin lesions (Table 125‐1 ). Various skin and systemic diseases were described to be associated with the presence of pruritus and different mechanisms were proposed to explain its origin. There is little doubt that  chronic pruritus has negative impact on patients’ well-being. Many patients with chronic itch mentioned it as the most bothersome symptom of the disease they have. Patients suffering from itching were found to have low self-image, suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorders and have difficulties in coping with aggression. Severe pruritus at night frequently resulted in significant sleeping problems. It was also observed, that in many diseases pruritus intensity significantly correlated with degree of quality of life impairment, level of stigmatization, presence and severity of depressive symptoms as well as with emotional stress. Based on available data it could be concluded that chronic pruritus is a devastating symptom impairing all aspects of patients’ life. Further studies are needed to better characterize the exact influence of this symptom on quality of life in various dermatological and systemic diseases. There is also a great necessity of the development of new effective anti-pruritic strategies to reduce or alleviate pruritus in different medical conditions and thus to improve significantly patients’ quality of life.
Table 125‐1

Key Facts of pruritus

• Pruritus is defined as an unpleasant sensation that leads to intensive scratching.


• Pruritus is the most common symptom in dermatology that may occur with or without visible skin lesions.


• Pruritus could be of localized or generalized character.


• Pruritus lasting over 6 weeks is defined as a chronic one.


• According to the newest clinical classification (Ständer et al., 2007) patients with pruritus may be characterized as those with itching on primarily diseased, inflamed skin, those with pruritus on primarily normal, non-inflamed skin, and those with chronic secondary scratch lesions.


• Based on etiology chronic pruritus may be classified as dermatological, systemic, neurological, psychogenic/psychosomatic, mixed, or other type.


• Chronic pruritus can be very distressing, refractory to treatment and its intensity frequently usually correlated with degree of quality of life impairment, level of stigmatization, severity of depression as well as with emotional stress.


This table provides a short overview for non-specialists about the major features of pruritus


Atopic Dermatitis Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis Work Ability Atopic Dermatitis Patient Seborrheic Dermatitis 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

List of Abbreviations:


atopic dermatitis


adjusted odds ratio


Beck’s depression inventory


children’s dermatology life quality index


dermatology life quality index


human immunodeficiency virus


quality of life


standard deviation


standard error


Short form-36


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. C. Szepietowski
    • 2
  • A. Reich
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Dermatology, Venereology and AllergologyWroclaw Medical UniversityWroclawPoland
  2. 2.Institute of Immunology and Experimental Therapy, Polish Academy of SciencesWroclawPoland

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