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From The MS Information Sourcebook, produced by the National MS Society.

Pruritis (itching) may occur as a symptom of MS. It is one of the family of abnormal sensations-such as "pins and needles" and burning, stabbing, or tearing pains-which may be experienced by people with MS. These sensations are known as dysesthesias, and they are neurologic in origin.

Different from Allergic Itching
Dysesthetic itching may occur suddenly and intensely, but for brief periods. It may be present over any part of the body or face. It is different from the generalized itching that can accompany an allergic reaction, as there is no external skin rash or irritation at the site of itching. Corticosteroid ointments applied to the skin are not helpful in relieving this type of itch.

Medications Can Treat Itching Associated with MS
There are, however, several medications that are usually successful in treating dysesthetic itching. Among them are:

  • anticonvulsants, such as carbamazepine (Tegretol®), diphenylhydantoin (Dilantin®), and gabapentin (Neurontin®)
  • antidepressants, such as amitriptyline (Elavil®) and the MAO inhibitors
  • the antihistamine hydroxyzine (Atarax®).

People who experience itching should consult their physician.

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Last updated February 2006