Chronic itch remains a major dilemma that plagues a huge number of people and animals. Pruritus negatively influences patients’ quality of life, and numerous patients experience insomnia, tension, and depression, similar to patients with chronic pain.
Once mistaken as a low-level type of pain, the itch is now understood as a distinct sensation with a committed neural circuit connecting cells in the periphery of the body to the brain.
Around 15 percent of the populace experiences chronic itch, as indicated by Dr. Brian Kim, co-director of the Center for the Study of Itch and Sensory Disorders at the Washington University School of Medicine. “It’s a major issue,” Kim says. “Studies have demonstrated that the impact of chronic itch on personal satisfaction is comparable to chronic pain. A large number of my patients who have had both prefer pain over itch, as itch is all the more maddening.”
Completing his Dermatology Residency at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Brian Kim became a Clinical Instructor in 2011. In 2014, he was appointed as Assistant Professor of Medicine (Dermatology), Pathology and Immunology, and Anesthesiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Later, he became the Co-Director of the Center for the Study of Itch and Sensory Disorders at Washington University School of Medicine, bringing forth significant discoveries in the fields of neuroimmunology, skin inflammation, and atopic dermatitis.
Dr. Brian S. Kim is the recipient of many awards in light of his immense contribution to find a cure for chronic itch. His professional accolades include the American Dermatological Association Young Leadership Award in 2019, Young Dermatologist Achievement Award from the International League of Dermatological Societies in 2019, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Clinical Scientist Development Award in 2016, and most recently the American Skin Association Research Achievement Award in Discovery in 2021.
He currently serves as the Associate Professor of Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine and has over 75 peer-reviewed publications under his name. Dr. Kim’s publications ‘Sensory Neurons Co-Opt Classical Immune Signaling Pathways to Mediate Chronic Itch’ and A Basophil-Neuronal Axis Promotes Itch’are milestone paradigm shifts in our understanding of atopic dermatitis and allergic disease.
There are many reasons individuals itch. These span from dry skin and psoriasis to contact dermatitis from harsh fabrics, pet dander, cleansers, clothing detergents, and scents — aggregately referred to eczema — as well as more easily recognizable conditions, for example, like bug bites or poison ivy.
A few people will break into hives after exposure to some extreme conditions, for example, cool air or the sun.
Scientists are examining the itch-scratch cycle, attempting to unwind the secrets of what makes individuals itch and, at that point, scratch — and continue to scratch. Scratchingharms the skin, which causes inflammation, Dr. Kim says. “This enhanced irritation caused by inflammation, as with numerous rashes, causes more itch in a feed-forward way,” he says. “Subsequently, it’s a horrible ‘itch-scratch cycle.”
Dr. Kim says there are various treatments; however, the best ones rely upon the idea of the itch in mind: “Dry skin is best assisted with creams, though on the off chance that you have dermatitis, certain anti-inflammatory drugs have better anti-itch properties over others.”
Dr. Kim further reveals that the body’s immune system is a player. “People often believe that our immune responses end in our immune system,” Kim says. “Yet, the itch-scratch cycle draws in the immune system with the entire body, interfacing with behavior and the environment also.”
While Dr. Kim has worked tirelessly to disclose a lot about chronic itch, including that it is not a mild form of pain, a lot has still to be researched to know about ‘chronic itch’in-depth. Nevertheless, with physician-scientists like Dr.Kim at work, there remains hope for yet more new discoveries to be made soon.