Why Does the Same Spot Keep Itching?

What causes an itch is complicated. Allergies, medical conditions, dry skin, and a wide range of other conditions can all lead to an itching sensation. An itch that returns over and over again to the same spot, though, is a little more unusual.

Itches that recur in the same spot and are confined to one or two locations are usually considered neuropathic itches, or itches triggered in your nerves. There's a number of reasons you might develop this kind of itch, but it's important to get treatment in order to avoid complications like tissue damage or infection.

This article will investigate what it could mean if you have an itch return repeatedly in the same spot, and how you can treat it to avoid severe problems.

Person itching the back of their neck

triocean / Getty Images

Causes of a Recurring Itch

An itch may just be an itch in some cases, but when it returns over and over, it's called pruritis. "Pruritis" is the medical term for chronically itchy skin, and this name encompasses itches of many varieties.

Causes of pruritis include:

If you are suffering from a chronic itch, your healthcare provider may ask you a lot of questions to determine the cause, including where the location of your itch is. An itch that returns over and over in the same location may provide a clue on a particular cause of your itch.

An itch that occurs over and over in the same spot may be caused by nerve damage. This type of itching is usually called neuropathic itch or neurodermatitis.

Unlike other forms of pruritis, this itching develops in just one location (but sometimes two). It's rare for this condition to go away without treatment, and ongoing scratching in the same spot can lead to more intense itching, burning, and tissue damage or infection.

Risk Factors for a Recurrent Itch

About 8% of all chronic itch cases are caused by a neuropathic, or nerve, problem. There are severe risk factors for developing this type of itch. The following conditions and/or treatments increase your risk of developing a chronic neuropathic itch.

Neurodermatitis is seen most often in adults between the ages of 30 and 50 and in women more than men. People who have anxiety, psoriasis, and other forms of dermatitis are also at an increased risk of neurodermatitis.

Related: Common Causes and Treatments for Itching

Symptoms

Recurrent itches that fall into the neurodermatitis category can occur anywhere, but they are most common on the:

  • Feet
  • Ankles
  • Hands
  • Wrists
  • Elbows
  • Shoulders
  • Neck
  • Scalp

Less frequently, the eyelids, anus, and genitals are affected.

This type of itching can either come and go or be present all the time. Most people with this condition report that the itchy feeling is worse when they try to relax or go to sleep. Stress and anxiety can also increase feelings of itchiness.

While itching is the primary symptom of neurodermatitis, discoloration of the skin and pain when scratching are common. Continued scratching can lead to a number of other skin complications, too.

The Itch-Scratch Cycle

The itch-scratch cycle is what dermatologists call the phenomenon when the response to an itch becomes part of the problem.

We all want to scratch an itch, However, sometimes scratching an itch can make the area even itchier, creating an impossible-to-break cycle of scratching.

Recurrent Itch Complications

Continuous scratching of an area due to neurodermatitis can lead to all kinds of skin and tissue damage like:

  • Lines in the skin
  • Thickening of the skin
  • Skin discoloration
  • Open wounds
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Scabbing
  • Scarring
  • Hair loss

When to Seek Medical Care

Neurodermatitis doesn't go away on its own, so if you think you have this condition, you will need to see a healthcare professional in order to heal your itchy, injured skin and break the itch-scratch cycle.

Even if you are already undergoing treatment, be sure to call your healthcare professional right away if you develop severe bleeding or signs of infection at the site of your itch.

Treatment

Treatment of neurodermatitis is multifaceted. It includes healing your itchy areas and addressing the underlying problem that led to the itch.

Corticosteroids, topical steroids, and even injected steroids are often used to reduce inflammation and soften thickened skin in affected areas. Your healthcare provider also may prescribe nonsteroidal medications like calcineurin inhibitors or salicyclic acid to help control the itching sensation.

Another option to reduce itching is placing an occlusive dressing over the affected area and makes it difficult to scratch. Moisturizers or ointments may be applied under the dressing to help skin heal.

Other medications and treatments that may be used to soothe neuropathic itching include:

Summary

An itch that occurs over and over in the same spot and nowhere else may be linked to nerve damage. These itches rarely get better without treatment. See a healthcare provider or dermatologist if you think you have a neuropathic itch, as prescription medications may be required.

A Word From Verywell

If you have an itch that just won't go away it can be maddening. An itch that won't go away that occurs in the same spot can also be dangerous. Continuous scratching can lead to skin and tissue damage, bleeding, and infection. See your healthcare provider if you are experiencing this problem, because neuropathic itching rarely improves without treatment with prescription medications.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • When should I worry about a recurring itch?

    If you have an itch that keeps coming back in just one spot, you should see your healthcare provider. Neuropathic itches don't often resolve without treatment, and continued scratching could lead to a number of complications. You may even need to be treated for a separate, underlying condition to resolve your itch.

  • Why do I get an itch in the same spot every night?

    An itch that develops in the same spot over and over is likely a neuropathic itch, and most people with this problem complain that the itch seems worse at night when they try to sleep or relax. Most likely, this is because you have fewer things to focus your attention on besides the itch.

  • What does neuropathic itch feel like?

    A neuropathic itch feels like any other itch, but scratching may cause it to just itch more. Over time with continuous scratching you may also notice pain as the skin in the affected area becomes damaged and raw.


5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. MedlinePlus. Itching.

  2. Nowak DA, Yeung J. Diagnosis and treatment of pruritus. Can Fam Physician. February 2018;64(2):92.

  3. Pereira MP, et al. Neuropathic itch: Routes to clinical diagnosis. Front. Med. February 2021;8. doi:10.3389/fmed.2021.641746.

  4. National Eczema Foundation. Neurodermatitis.

  5. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Eczema types: Neurodermatitis signs and symptoms.

By Rachael Zimlich, BSN, RN
 Rachael is a freelance healthcare writer and critical care nurse based near Cleveland, Ohio.