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Why Do We Itch?

Author: Renee Cao

Editors: Kira Tian and Liane Xu

Artist: Daelah Nicholas

Did you know that our skin is the only body part that experiences pruritus and pain at the same time—hold on, what is pruritus? Read on to find out!

Why do we always want to scratch mosquito bites? The answer is pruritus, or commonly known as an itch. When our skin or nerve cells start getting irritated, we develop the urge to scratch—a vital sensory and self-defense mechanism. Pruritus is a common symptom of many skin disorders. It is stimulated by pruriceptors, nerve endings that sense itches. Inflammation and damage to the skin, mucous, or eye membranes all stimulate mechanical, thermal, and chemical agents that cause itching.

Itches are caused when C-fibers, specialized nerve cells, are activated by their pruriceptors. When C-fibers are stimulated, they bring signals from the nerve to the spinal cord, and then to the brain, resulting in a scratching reflex. The s