Arthritis treatment: Drug could be used to treat THIS mysterious condition

Itching - also called pruritus - is an unpleasant sensation that triggers the urge to scratch the skin.

According to the NHS, it does not usually signify a serious issue and is normally temporary.

Skin conditions, such as eczema, allergies and insect bites can all cause it.

It may also be as a result of parasitic infestations, including scabies, fungal infections like athlete’s foot, and liver or kidney problems.

But, if itching lasts for more than six weeks it is called chronic itching, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Mostly it can be linked to inflammatory conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, and in some cases it may be caused by kidney failure, liver disease, and certain cancers and nerve disorders.

But sometimes the cause of chronic itch is completely unknown, and in these cases it is called chronic idiopathic pruritus.

The condition has long baffled scientists, and can be difficult to treat.

However, researchers may have discovered a new way to treat it.

In a study published in the journal Cell they revealed that a drug approved for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) could help.

While earlier attempts to treat the itching with anti-inflammatory drugs did not work, within a month of taking the RA drug - tofacitinib - patients experienced noticeable relief.

“These patients often itch day and night, and for some of them, the urge to scratch never goes away,” said Brian S. Kim, a senior investigator and assistant professor from Washington University in St Louis, United States.

“Although this was a small study, the patients taking tofacitinib experienced dramatic improvements in terms of their itch, allowing them to sleep, stop scratching, and return to living more productive lives.

“Obviously, we’ll need to do a larger study, but the early results are very encouraging.”

The researchers had discovered a certain immune signalling molecule that is key in activating neurons in the skin that cause chronic itching.

“We found a link between the immune system and the nervous system that wasn’t previously appreciated, showing that this immune molecule directly stimulates nerve cells to cause itching,” Kim said.