Can an itch be heritable?

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Can an itch be heritable?
« on: 20/07/2009 17:30:03 »
Lyle Rawlins asked the Naked Scientists:
Hi there,

My mother had a frequent itch on her back that caused her to rub against any handy door post or anything else for relief. Most of the clothes she wore regularly were eventually worn thin from this.

My sisters and I also have an itch on about the same place, so can one really inherit an itch or is this mere coincidence?

I regularly listen to all the podcasts produced at The Naked Scientist and spread the word every chance I get.

Best regards,

What do you think?


Offline RD

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Can an itch be heritable?
« Reply #1 on: 21/07/2009 10:30:21 »
Apparently itching (pruritus) in a particular area can be inheritable ...

Brachioradial pruritus is typically sporadic, although an autosomal dominant inheritance pattern has been reported in one family,
 with 11 members across 2 generations experiencing symptoms.


Offline carreerslut

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Can an itch be heritable?
« Reply #2 on: 29/07/2009 16:50:59 »
Having a break and wanted to comment on your question for a while.  Honestly, I don't know about the heritability issue, although there are conditions that cause itching in the upper back which may have a genetic link.  Brain not reminding me what they are though, sorry.  Meanwhile, some other ideas...

Ever been in a room where someone yawns?  And within minutes you have an overwhelming urge to yawn yourself?  Or the same with someone coughing?  We are natural mimics of each other in certain behaviours and watching someone repeatedly scratch the same part of your body will likely make you inclined to want to do the same.  Your mum may have inadvertantly started a family trend!

Another theory, such a simple one but one which gets overlooked in the causes of back itching I think.  Apart from the obvious issue of possible allergy to fabrics (unless you are all wearing the same clothes doesn't hold up, but using the same washing powder does) there is the issue of hair!

If you and your family are prone to falling hairs, typical on fine caucasian hair but all types fall, quite naturally, where do they fall?...down your back.  This can cause loads of irritation.  It could be as a family you have similar hair types and are losing several down your clothes, making you itch.  Check the outside of your clothing on the back, hair there?  Or rather than scratching feel for a stray strand and see if removing it solves the problem.

Sometimes the simple solutions are the hardest to think of. 

Whatever the cause, please try not to scratch!  Hard when you're asleep but how about going to the pharmacist and getting a really good strength anti-itch cream.  Even a trip to the dermatologist is not unreasonable if you have really scratched yourself ragged.  Allergy medications can also calm down itching, but maybe try a ladder up approach?  Look for the simple and obvious, stray hair, mimicry, washing powder, then getting the itch cream, then if not solved some allergy medicine, then if not solved a trip to the doctor....dermatologist.....then the genetic sinister cause theory.  I suggest this as this is probably the approach any clinician would take, although only women generally recognnize the issue of long hair and itchy spines! 

Let us know if you get the answer.