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Scientists trace a new path behind the maddening, unrelenting, screaming desire to scratch

1:22pm, November 7, 2008

When it comes to sensory information detected by the body, pain is king, and itch is the court jester. But that insistent, tingly feeling—satisfied only by a scratch—is anything but funny to the millions of people who suffer from it chronically.

Garden-variety itches related to histamine, like the kind caused by an angry rash of chicken pox or poison ivy, annoy everyone, but most can be subdued with drugs like Benadryl. But another type of itch is not mollified by these drugs, and therein lies the rub. Pathological itch — called the “itch that laughs at Benadryl” by neuroscientist and itch investigator Glenn Giesler Jr. of the University of Minnesota—is no joke.

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