Brachioradial pruritus (itchy arms) is a localized intense itching on the outer aspect of the upper arm, elbow, and forearm. This is commonly seen in fair-skinned individuals who are often exposed to sun. The itching may gradually be more widespread and intense but may still look normal without any rash. The itching may be so intense that may result in bleeding due to scratching.
Although there are several other conditions that are associated with itchy arms, most of them are associated with rash on the arms and probably on other areas of the body too. Most common cause of severe itching with rash is atopic dermatitis, which is characterized by severe itching, redness, scaling and lichenification of the skin. Other common conditions include dry skin, neurodermatitis, allergic contact dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis etc.
Brachioradial prurituis is commonly seen in middle aged individual, however, it may start during adulthood and increase its intensity as individual in exposed to chronic sun. The most common area of itchy arm is the outer aspect of forearm but can be experienced on elbow, upper arms, neck and back. Itching can be intense associated with prickling, burning or stinging sensation. The involve area may be hypersensitive to touch.
Unlike other parts, arms can be easily access in anytime anywhere either private or public so patients will be habitual due to frequent itching. This chronic itching may result in secondary skin changes like scarring and hypo or hyper-pigmentations.
Itchy arms often involve one arm that is frequently exposed to sun but can be experienced on both arms too. In case of bilateral itching it may be suggestive of spinal tumour, so prompt investigation may be needed.
What Causes Brachioradial Prutitus?
It has been suggested that brachioradial pruritus is cause by nerve damage due to cervical spine abnormalities. Prolonged long-term exposure to sun has also been suggested in the etiology of brachioradial pruritus. Minor injuries and abnormalities of cervical spine like calcium deposit, disc prolapse or bulging, and degenerative changes of spine and skin that occurs due to normal aging or disease and excessive sun exposure can also cause the problem.
Treatment for Brachioradial Pruritus
There is no cure for such itchy arms but ice pack and cooling lotions may be beneficial. Beside symptomatic relief, it is very important to find out the case and treat any underlying systemic cause especially spinal origin. Other therapy like topical capsaicin cream, anesthetic creams, anticonvulsant medications (gabapentine) and antidepressants have also been used with success. Avoiding chronic sun exposure may also help relief the symptoms.