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Neurodermatitis - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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Neurodermatitis is a skin disorder that is characterized by itching and scratching on one or two patches of skin. Read the article below to learn more.

Written by

Dr. Shikha

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Dhepe Snehal Madhav

Published At October 18, 2022
Reviewed AtJune 27, 2023

What Is Neurodermatitis?

Lichen simplex chronicus or neurodermatitis is a skin disorder that causes inflamed spots on the skin due to continuous itching and scratching. The itch can happen everywhere on the body, although it is most prevalent in the arms, elbows, shoulders, thighs, wrists, ankles, back of the neck, hands, and scalp. The genital areas, as well as the face, may also itch. Itching can be severe, resulting in constant scratching or intermittent. When the patient is resting or trying to sleep, it is at its most active, and thus the patient may wake up scratching or rubbing the affected skin area in some circumstances.

The irritating areas range in size. The patches may appear as dry, scaly, leathery, and thick. It can appear in various reddish, brownish, yellowish, gray, or purple shades. Older patches may be pale or white in the middle, with darker colors surrounding them. Scarring may develop over time. Scratching can irritate skin nerve endings, making the itching worse and leading to even more scratching. As the itch-scratch cycle continues, the problem might become chronic and hinder healing.

Neurodermatitis affects adults between the ages of 30 and 50, and it is more common in women than in men. Although some children with atopic dermatitis develop neurodermatitis, it is rare. Neurodermatitis is more common in people with anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and family members who have had other skin conditions, including eczema or contact dermatitis. Tight clothing, especially when it is made of wool or synthetic fabric, bug bites, nerve damage, and dry skin can all cause neurodermatitis.

What Causes Neurodermatitis?

  • Although the specific origin of neurodermatitis is unclear, studies suggest that environmental variables, systemic illnesses, and psychological issues may all play a role.

  • Environmental skin irritants, such as tight clothing or an insect bite, can produce localized itching that leads to neurodermatitis-like persistent, repeated scratching.

  • Eczema, a skin condition marked by itchy, dry skin, could also be the source of itchiness.

  • Other systemic disorders, such as psoriasis, which is a chronic autoimmune disorder that produces skin inflammation, and lichen planus, which is an immune-mediated skin rash, can induce chronic skin irritation.

  • Finally, while neurodermatitis is usually caused by underlying environmental or cutaneous causes, it is frequently associated with psychiatric problems characterized by psychological rumination or repetitive behaviors, for example, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, or anxiety.

  • Neurodermatitis has the potential to develop into a persistent and devastating illness. The affected area becomes increasingly irritated and itchier as the individual scratches it, generating a repeating cycle of itching and scratching that can gradually lead to skin thickening.

What Are the Symptoms of Neurodermatitis?

The face, hands, arms, back of the neck, legs, scalp, and genitals are commonly affected by neurodermatitis. It can, however, arise anywhere else on the body. The length and width of the dry, itchy skin regions are usually between 3 and 10 centimeters. Patches of skin might be brown, red, gray, or purple, and they can scar with time. The skin regions could possibly appear dry, leathery, scaly, and thicker than the skin surrounding the patchy area. Intense and recurrent itching is the most prevalent and unpleasant symptom of neurodermatitis. Itching can be continuous or fluctuate over time. When trying to rest or sleep, the itching may become more intense. As a result, neurodermatitis can affect a person's sleep quality and produce extra stress, especially if the condition is severe and is not treated on time. Other neurodermatitis symptoms are:

  • Bleeding from the affected area.

  • Pain in the affected area.

  • Hair loss can occur if the condition affects the scalp.

  • Scratching for long periods of time can cause skin scars.

  • Constant scratching can lead to open sores.

  • Infection can also occur.

How to Diagnose Neurodermatitis?

  • A thorough physical exam and obtaining the patient's history of acute itching and scratching are usually required for diagnosis.

  • Skin scraping, which involves removing and analyzing the superficial layer of dead skin, might help rule out other possibilities, such as a fungal infection. To confirm the diagnosis of neurodermatitis, a skin biopsy, or even the taking of a small sample of skin for examination, is occasionally utilized.

  • Neurodermatitis can be distinguished from other skin disorders by the shape of the plaques. Prurigo nodularis is a skin condition that can cause itching and scratching and is distinguished from neurodermatitis by spherical nodules that appear as localized inflammation of the skin.

  • Nummular eczema or discoid eczema is a disorder that has a similar appearance to neurodermatitis but creates coin-shaped plaques rather than linear plaques. Blood tests can also be conducted by the dermatologist.

  • To exclude sexually transmitted diseases and identify skin conditions in the general region, the dermatologist can use fungus tests.

What Is the Treatment for Neurodermatitis?

The goal of neurodermatitis treatment is to cure the skin and break the itch-scratch cycle.

  • Corticosteroids are frequently prescribed by dermatologists to relieve inflammation and itching and eliminate thickened skin. These are normally strong topical steroids, but the dermatologist might have to inject a steroid into the patch if the skin is particularly thick.

  • Non-steroidal topicals and Salicylic acid ointments can also be used to relieve itching.

  • Covering the afflicted region with occlusive treatments can help decrease itching and make scratching more difficult. Plastic wrap after applying topicals or moisturizer or gauze covered with zinc oxide paste are examples of an occlusive approach to treatment.

  • Dermatologists may also recommend medicated patches containing Lidocaine, a numbing ingredient, and capsaicin, a component of chili peppers that can desensitize the nerve endings that cause itching.

  • Some oral drugs can also help the patient stop scratching, especially if it happens while they are sleeping. Prescription Antihistamines, which can produce drowsiness, and anti-anxiety low-dose medicines are among them.

  • Itching can be relieved by moisturizing daily, using cool baths or compressing with colloidal oatmeal, and wearing loose-fitting, soft fabric clothing while keeping fingernails short prevents scratching damage.

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy or counseling may be beneficial for certain people to address anxiety and other emotional problems that contribute to the itch-scratch cycle. Relaxation techniques like progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, and meditation practices can also help.


Neurodermatitis is a skin ailment that causes persistent scratching and itching, and it might result in painful, irritated skin areas. Neurodermatitis has a variety of treatment options available, as well as preventative actions that can be taken. Neurodermatitis can be a bothersome and frustrating condition. If someone has dry, itchy skin, it is time to consult a dermatologist or a doctor for a diagnosis. A good treatment strategy can help to manage neurodermatitis and potentially avoid flare-ups in the future.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Is the Main Cause of Neurodermatitis?

The precise cause is unknown for neurodermatitis. Something that irritates the skin, like tight clothing or a bug bite, may cause it to flare up. Itches increase in intensity as one scratch.


How Long Does Neurodermatitis Take To Heal?

Neurodermatitis patches disappear after 2 to 4 weeks.


What Is the Difference Between the Skin Conditions Neurodermatitis and Eczema?

In contrast to atopic dermatitis or eczema, which can affect large areas of skin, neurodermatitis often affects just one or two patches. It seldom goes away on its own, and frequent scratching can aggravate skin nerve endings, making both itching and scratching worse.


Is Neurodermatitis a Type of Eczema?

Eczema that starts as an itch is called neurodermatitis. A single or two itching patches are common in most people.


How Can Neurodermatitis Be Cured?

Anti-itch lotions, corticosteroid injections, medications to reduce itching, anti-anxiety medications, medicinal patches, injections of OnabotulinumtoxinA or Botox, talk therapy, and light therapy can help cure neurodermatitis.


Is Neurodermatitis an Allergy?

Neurodermatitis has no recognized etiology. But some factors, such as allergies, can cause neurodermatitis.


Is Neurodermatitis Genetic?

Neurodermatitis' precise cause is unknown. Something that irritates the skin, like tight clothing or a bug bite, may cause it to flare up. Itches increase in intensity as one scratch. Neurodermatitis occasionally co-occurs with other skin disorders such as psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, or dry skin. It usually had no genetic predisposition.


What Is the Fastest Way to Heal Dermatitis?

Regular moisturizing, as well as other skin-care routines, may be the first step in the treatment of dermatitis. These are occasionally used in conjunction with other therapies.


Is Skin Dermatitis Permanent?

Atopic dermatitis is persistent or chronic in nature and flares up occasionally. Although the condition is not contagious, it can be irritating.


Does Neurodermatitis Cause Pain?

Neurodermatitis symptoms might include pain, itching, and scratching.


What Is the Best Thing to Stop Itching?

Using an ice pack or a cold, moist cloth on itchy skin and continuing doing this for five to ten minutes, or till the itching stops, provides relief.


What Can Be Mistaken for Dermatitis?

Psoriasis can resemble dermatitis, particularly seborrheic dermatitis. Both appear to be blotches of red skin with skin flakes on top of and surrounding the redness. Dermatitis is essentially a subtype of eczema. Rosacea can result in skin that is red and resembles dermatitis.


What Cancers Cause Itching Skin?

T-cell lymphoma, skin lymphoma, and Hodgkin's lymphoma all frequently exhibit itching as a symptom. In the majority of non-lymphoma Hodgkin's forms, itching is less frequent.


Is Dermatitis an Autoimmune Disease?

Numerous dermatitis forms involve an immune system overreaction, and some research implies autoimmunity might be involved.


Is Dermatitis the Same as a Fungal Infection?

Despite occasionally appearing identical at first appearance, atopic dermatitis and fungal skin diseases are not the same. Fungal infections are brought on by typical fungi that can be found in the environment, not by genetic or chronic diseases.
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Dr. Dhepe Snehal Madhav
Dr. Dhepe Snehal Madhav



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