Why Do Surgical Scars Itch?

Why Do Surgical Scars Itch?

After surgery, one of the short-term and even long-term side effects that many patients have to deal with is itching at the scar site along with any pain you may be dealing with. It can be a very uncomfortable problem, one that can even affect quality of life, and although treatment may be difficult, it’s helpful to understand the process involved.

For any injury, including surgery, the healing process begins with blood clotting to form a scab. As new collagen is produced and replenished at the wound site, as well as elastin fibers, it is this portion of healing that can cause scar itching and discomfort. Itching can also come from sensation in the nerve endings that were cut or affected and from inflammation at the wound site.

Keeping the area hydrated is essential. You can do this with a body moisturizer or with a scar treatment that contains moisturizing ingredients (one with silicone works best.) A temporary, short term way to subside itching is using icepacks for short periods of time to help numb the area enough to help, although you shouldn’t keep ice on for more than about ten minutes at a time. Avoid using bar soaps, as they tend to strip the skin of natural oils, leaving the skin dry and chapped, which will increase itching.

Itching can also be an indication of infection. If you experience heat or pain along with the itching, it’s best to contact your doctor to discuss it further. An infection is not only dangerous to your health, but also contributes to a larger scar.

In general, as time goes on the itching should fade, along with any pain and the appearance of the scar. It’s a normal part of the healing process.

Have a question about your scar? Leave a comment and we’ll be happy to answer.

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Comments

  1. The information on this site is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. Please speak to your doctor to treat any medical condition. Information on this site is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-physician relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment.
  2. Can it be possible for 1 of 2 surgical scars aquired at the same time to itch and the other one to not? Also the one that does itch is turning a darker shade of purple

  3. I had surgery done 10 years ago to remove a birthmark above my left ear. I understand that surgical scars being itchy is normal during the hearling process, but my surgical scars are still itchy 10 years later. There is no pain and nor burning sensation, just itchy. Now mind you my surgeon had to cut through a few nerves in order to remove the birthmark, that little bit of area is numb, my scars are still itchy.

  4. Hi there,
    I have minor surgery about 3 years ago and it has left a scar just under my belly button.
    2 weeks ago it started getting very itchy and has caused red dots to appear.
    do you know what may have caused this?
    Is it something I should go get checked by the doctor?
    Thank you

  5. I had major surgery on my back 54 years ago which left a large scar. The scar still itches like crazy in the winter. Hydrocortisone cream seemed to ease the itching.

  6. i had back surgery in August of 2014 my scar still itches it’s all healed can barely see it It itches so bad I use ice due to pain in lower back I use aloe lotion thinking maybe dry skin I moisturize with lotion

    • Hi Lisa, scars can take up to 2 years to fully heal. What you see on the outside is not necessarily an indication as to what is going on under the skin. Keeping the area moisturized is a good step. You can also use an anti-itch cream like hydrocortizone. If your scar becomes painful, you should have it re-examined by your doctor.

    • Kristina says:

      Hi, I also have had back surgery years ago. The doc said that it can be due to several things one being that it takes years for you to get all the nerves healed after surgery and some of it can be actually your nerve endings working overtime and it can also be that the skin is tight and needs moisture and a lot of it. With the tightening of the skin where they had to pull it together to staple it the skin is tight and needs moisture for elasticity. Hope this helps!

  7. Yvette Boshoff says:

    Is it possible for a scar to itch on the inside? The scar is 12 years old!!

    • Hi Yvette, scars can itch due to the damage to the skin. Has it always itched or did that just start? If it’s a new development you should get it checked out by your doctor for peace of mind.

    • Hi Yvette, I had open heart surgery five years ago. I have intense itching inside my left breast. Scar doesn’t itch, just my breast. Primary Dr and Cardiologist can’t explain it. Only relief I can get is to scratch it with my bristle hair brush.

  8. I had lifesaving brain surgery a little over 7 months ago. For a while I tried a scar cream but it was very uncomfortable as my scar is above the hairline and I couldn’t rub the cream in all the way. It still itches several times a week and occasionally hurts. Is there any way to deal with it directly in this case?

  9. Lady Zee says:

    My mum had a left mastectomy(due to cancer) about 8 months ago. She has been complaining that her scar itches badly and so I decided to look it up to see if I can find answers. This piece has been informative and helpful, thank you all very much.

  10. anonymous says:

    9 years ago I had a hysterectomy, the 8-9 inch surface scar is nearly invisible but it’s now itching like crazy. One area of the scar is somewhat swollen & tender again. Is that “normal” so many years later? (It became tender before the itching started again)

  11. I’ve had a scar after cutting my foot and needing surgery nearly 4 years ago, and still experience itching at lease once a week. At first it feels like the outside, but as I subconsciously forget about it and scratch, it burns to the touch and is still itchy on the inside.

  12. Hi there. I was wondering what advice you might have for me in my situation. I had several surgeries in my abdomen and the final one was 5yrs ago this Past March. Well just in the past week it’s been itching like crazy and I’ve got red bumps too that hurt(I think it only hurts because I scratched the heck outta it…). To make it more complicated, my end result was I had to have all my bowel removed and I now have a ileostomy. And my adhesive for my bag partly covers my incision. I can’t put anything near it at all to relief the itching. Otherwise my adhesive will fail and then my bag will fall off…it’s not itched like this since it was healing 5yrs ago. Any
    Suggestions anyone? Lol. Thank You!!

  13. Hi. I had major surgery two weeks ago and was discharged a day ago. My scar is really really itchy, is this normal this early?

  14. Hi i had an appendectomy 2 years ago and my scar became keloid-like and it has white debris and it itches a lot. How can i deal with it? Thanks

  15. Hi
    I had surgery on my ankle almost 3 weeks ago on both sides as i fractured it and had to have plates and pins. I am currently in a cast but have been experiencing itchiness and slight sharp pains. This is not all the time its mostly when i am mobile…i.e going to the bathroom etc…. is this a sign oof healing?

  16. I had an umbilical hernia repair a year ago and they used desolvable stitches my scar is still painful and I get shooting pains and itching on and around the scar also the is a sharp bit poking out at the end should I be worried

    • Hi Jess, The scar is still maturing, which is why it itches. Shooting pains are usually because the scar is pulling on other tissues, cut nerves are trying to regrow, or nerves have become trapped in the scar. Firm scar massage can help break up the firm scar tissue. The sharp pain could be a suture spitting out of the wound – we recommend you see your doctor about it.

  17. I had scoliosis surgery 15 years ago and my scar STILLLLL ITCHES SO MUCH!! It’s not alllll the time, but a super significant amount of times. It happens a lot when rain is on the way, but it happens as much when there’s no apparent reason. It itches during various times in the day, but mostly at night, to the point that sometimes I scratch soooo much that I develop a scab or a few scabs either directly on the scar line or super close to it (I think that the latter is bc the brain only interprets itching approximately, and not exactly at its source of origin?). My scar healed beautifully; it’s barely noticeable (so people say), so it’s not bc of wonky healing. What is causing this and how do I alleviate it in the absence of something like Benadryl?!

  18. I had 3 shoulder surgeries, about 10 years ago. I have noticed quite a few red spots around the incision points (3) they don’t itch or hurt. They are similar to the redness you would get from medical tape, that has been applied to right after having blood drawn.

  19. Christina says:

    I had a melanoma removed from my left shoulder 3 1/2 months ago, there was a reaction to the stitches, it stretched, it still itches and there are still raised bumps from the stitches as well as it is raised. Should I be worried or have it checked?

  20. Hi I had arthroscopic surgery on my knee on Friday and the incisions are kind of itchy. Why is that?

  21. Hi, last year I had several surgeries: tracheostomy, picc line and PEG. Each scar closed up a few days after removal and have healed nicely. I don’t have any sensations from the other scars but the tracheostomy scar itches like crazy. The scar and the skin around it gets very itchy. It happens randomly but mainly at night. I’m shocked a year later it still itches more than it did in the beginning. My scar looks pretty good just still darker than my skin. I’m wondering is this ever going to resolve?

  22. I had hysterectomy 8months ago. My scar is very bumpy and very itchy at times such that I can’t help it but scratch. My colleagues say their scars are itchy when its cold. Mine itches even when we have very high temperatured. There is no pain though. Please help.

  23. My question is, i had my gallbladder removed 1 1/2 years ago. The two of the four scars still itch incredibly bad and creams don’t really hurt. Why do they still it’s and why only two of them?

    • Hi Rose, while the scars are all from the same surgery, the skin can heal differently in each spot. The itchiness is normal during the healing process, even a year and a half after surgery (it can take up to two years for scars to heal.)

  24. I had open heart surgery about five years ago due to a puncture wound to the left ventricle and after I had the surgery. A week later I had the top wire removed cause it came undone. It hurts just about everyday but not too bad(I work construction so that is what I assume that’s from). I now have to red dots on the scar. I’m wondering if that is from being hit there or if there is another problem? I just hope it isn’t cancer or something bad like that cause that would just be the icing on the cake. How someone can help lol just trying a site to see if it helps

    • Hi Anthony, It may just be a build up of scar tissue or suture slowly working it’s way out (“suture granuloma”). While it is possible to get a form of skin cancer arising in a previous scar, it’s very unusual. It’s best to go back to your surgeon to get it checked out for peace of mind. If that isn’t possible, then a board certified plastic surgeon should be able to evaluate you.

  25. I had a historectomy on Dec 28th and I have 16 staples. Boy does this itch!! Is this normal?

  26. Good advice from all. I had knee surgery 25 years ago, The incision still itches and is numb to the touch. Wearing jeans and long socks don’t help. It’s been at least 10 yrs since a suture has made it to the surface,they used to come out like infected hairs. If I had to do it again I would’ve used more vitamin E. I use Lanolin on it these days.

  27. Will it be okay if I scratch the scar where it’s itching me?

  28. Breanna Z. says:

    Hi, I have a scar from my surgery 5 years ago on my groin. It never itched but now it is red, swollen and kinda itchy. Please help

  29. Hi, I am a young girl still in high school, and recently for some odd reason my hernia surgery scar is getting very itching only at the top of my scar but if I itch it, it hurts so bad. If I lightly brush my fingers without pressure over my tummy, it hurts bad. It’s like a pinching and pressure pain. I can’t stretch well, or like suck in my tummy (aka when I take it deep breaths). The thing is I had 2 hernias and both surgeries happened when I was 3 and again at 5, so this was a long time ago, yet it randomly starts acting up. My mom’s taking to me to hospital after school today, but I wanna make sure it’s something, because I don’t wanna go, then it be nothing, and my mom still has to pay for the visit, because that’s happened to us for other problems before. Please help me before the end of the day, it’s a weird and uncomfortable pain. Thanks for reading.

  30. I’ve had latissimus flap surgery 2-1/2 years ago. All went well.

    In the past 6 months, my scar has started to “itch” and gets all red and looks almost like a welt. Not always in the same area but always along the scar line.

    Any ideas? How can I treat it when it flares?

    Thank you.

    • Hi Denise, Scars can act like that sometimes as they mature, but we would expect that to happen well before 2.5 yrs out from surgery. Can you feel any bumps under the scar? This could be from old suture irritating the scar. We recommend you follow up with your plastic surgeon to be sure.

  31. Hello I have a question, in 2004 I had a surgery for my scoliosis and in October 2013 I had another surgery in the same area to remove one of those metal rods, in December 2014 i had a baby, now my scar is very itchy it’s red and discomfort. Could the pregnancy affected the scar?

    • Hi Diana, yes, the stretching of skin during pregnancy can have an affect on your scar. It should subside after you have your baby. For now, check with your OBGYN for a pregnancy-safe anti-itch cream.

  32. Kristin says:

    I had surgery on the bottom of my foot a couple years ago and here recently it’s been hurting really bad. Why?

  33. Yessenia says:

    Hello I had surgery on my lower back in the end of March it’s now July and my wound closed but now it’s been itching very bad and also it gets hot and it’s just that area should I see a doctor about it or should I be worried.

  34. Hi. I got surgery to remove a lymph node when i was an infant. That was 16 years ago and the spot is just now starting to itch very badly. I shave every day and have noticed it’s more red than usual. I’ve been putting lotion on and letting it dry before applying decoderant. I’m not sure why it’s itching or how I can make it stop. Please help.

  35. I’ve had both an appendectomy and hysterectomy years ago, but suddenly, out of nowhere, part of my scar is extremely itchy and I don’t know why. I’ve tried using a creme on it, but that hasn’t helped. It’s driving me crazy, and scratching it doesn’t help either. Any suggestions? Thanks.

  36. I had surgery a year ago. Never had itchiness till just now. Should I scratch or just moisturize ? Also how long will it take for the itchiness to go?

  37. Marsha Sciandra says:

    My husband had a total full reverse shoulder replacement in Novemner 2011. Recently he has begun feeling (periodically) extreme itching on the inside of the complete shoulder. He is extremely active and golfs at least five times a week (only playing nine holes). What could be causing this now

    • Hi Marsha, sometimes it just has to do with any damage to the nerve endings during the surgery. He may want to speak with his dr. to see if there is anything else they can do beyond applying an anti-itch cream.

  38. my mom had her knee replaced almost 3 1/2 months ago and now its turning back why is that? she’s really worried

  39. Hi, I had surgery a year ago and it’s been itchy. Now my scars are swollen and turning black. What do i do?

  40. I had heart surgery in April 2016 my scar is healing well until the other day my granddaughter scratched it . Do you think there is still chance for infection ? It is now Sept

  41. I had Gallstones removed about 6 weeks ago, but my scars have been rea
    My itchy lately and are really red. I have not type of pain or fever whatsoever. Should I be worried or contact my doc.

  42. Hi I had surgery on my tendons cartilage and ligaments in my ankle 7 weeks ago. I had the stitches out last week and for the last two days I’ve had a red rash alongside the scar with blisters that break when I scratch them is this normal?

    • Hi Karen, Can be. Please try to stop scratching! You’re only traumatizing skin and preventing healing. The blisters are unusual. Was a there a dressing previously in place that could have caused a skin reaction? I recommend you follow up with your surgeon.

  43. Hi, I’m 53, and had my son 23 years ago via cesarean, the scar started to itch today so I was scratching it, it started to feel wet and started bleeding, it has not ripped but I’m concerned as it was 23 years ago.

  44. Juana Andujo says:

    I had a hysterectomy about 8 yrs ago. My scar itches and burns and turns red. What does this more or less mean?

    • Hi Juana, do you make sure to apply moisturizer to that area daily (even twice a day)? Scar tissue needs to be kept hydrated in order to avoid itchiness and redness. Otherwise, it’s best to speak with your dr. so that he/she can check it out further.

  45. ashley anderson says:

    i have had surgry a long time well about8 yrs ago i would like to know what does it mean when the scar starts to hurt again

  46. Vicki Williams says:

    I had surgery on my ankle 6 years ago. Recently the scar has become infuriatingly itchy. Why is this?

    • Hi Vicki, this could be for two reasons – the first is that scar tissue doesn’t have glands so it requires that you keep the area moisturized daily. Dryness can cause your scar to itch uncontrollably. Second, it could be any damage that had been done to nerve endings – for example, have you lost or gained weight that could be causing the internal scar tissue to stretch or loosen? Anti-itch cream will help, but speaking to your dr. may also help as well.

  47. I have a scar on my hand from a recent cancer removal. The scar was healing nicely but now has a red itchy rash on it. What could cause that?

  48. Theresa holloway says:

    I had my gallbladder taken off December 11th 2016 my scars be itching and novel be itching and burning Wat too do?

  49. Heaven Smith says:

    I cracked my skull 10+ years ago and had my skull stitched and stapled back together, the scars are starting to itch like crazyyyyyyyyyyy. What can I do? (by the way, I’m 16 now)

  50. I had surgery about 10 years ago and i have to scars from the stitches and both sites started itching and burning only recently is this normal?

  51. I have many scars from breast cancer and reconstructive surgery from 2002. They have always itched and I don’t know why and have been wondering when they will ever stop.

  52. Matt D. says:

    Hi! I have had two hernia surgeries in my lifetime, the first at the age of seven and the second when I was 41 years old. Both surgical incisions were in the same spot. The second surgery was eleven years ago but within the last few months the surgical scar has started to itch relentlessly. What could possibly be causing this to happen? Thanks and I look forward to your reply!

  53. Susane Ramjattan says:

    Hi I had bilateral knee replacements bout 7 yrs ago, the itching was happening at the beginning of the surgery nd then it stopped for yrs and now my knee inside is itching a lot, I have pain nd burning but not all the time, mostly after walking nd then sitting or laying dwn is wen the burning begins. The itching is driving me insane bcuz i cant scratch it. Please help…

  54. hi,
    please i had a fibroadenoma removed from my right breast 3 years ago, it formed a keloid scar and has since been painful, the pain radiates to my shoulder and right arm, cos the scar is close to my armpit. what can i use to reduce the pain

  55. I had arm surgery a bit over a year ago and I have two scars from it, one of my top side and one on the bottom, and they tend to itch like crazy. I can never really stop scratching so I’m afraid that I’d I keep this up, I’ll damage something like scar tissue, the scar itself, etc… Please help!

    • Hi Shelby, have you tried applying an antihistamine cream? If you did and it didn’t help, you could speak to your dr about a prescription level anti-itch ointment. But typically the itching comes from healing (it takes 1-2 years to heal) and nerve endings may have been damaged during the surgery.

  56. Angie Metoyer says:

    I had some basal cell carcinoma removed on my shoulder it’s been 2 1/2 years still itching is that normal?

  57. Hello! I have a scar left from a laceration to the muscle on my forarm.
    It’s healed and it’s a scar, but it itches like he’ll! And I have to put bandages to stop myself from peeling the scar tissue off and then might be infection.
    Do you have any idea if this is normal? Or if I should go have it checked out?
    Thanks

    • Hi Jack, itching is a normal as part of healing of any scar. For scars that go as deep as the muscle, you may have also damaged nerves that would cause itchiness as well. Have you tried to apply an anti-itch cream, ask your dr about taking an antihistamine, or apply silicone patches?

  58. Desirae Cantu says:

    Hello i just had gallbladder surgery a week ago and it been very itchy what can i put on it to stop

    • Hi Desirae, this is completely normal in the scar healing process. Applying an antihistamine can help decrease the itching. Applying an ice pack can also help. Once your stiches are removed, you’ll want to always keep your scars moisturized as scar tissue does not have sweat glands and can no longer do this for itself. InviCible Scars has hydrating ingredients and scar fading Vitamin C.

  59. My thumb was chopped off in a machine while I was child but fortunately doctor stitched it back. But now after 15 years , itching on the thumb tips with mild pain is started. What’s it cause and why it could be cured.

  60. Hi, I’ve have had 2 cesareans, the last one 36 years ago, why does me scar still itch, especially in the hot weather.

    • Hi Tricia, it could be for a number of reasons, but most likely it is due to that scars do not have sweat glands, so in hot weather if your scar is not kept moisturized with a topical cream or lotion, it may be dry and therefore, itchy.

  61. Hello, I recently had some small scabs appear on an appendectomy surgical scar which is three inches in length and over forty years old. This has never happened before so what would cause scabs to form on a scar so old? Thank you.

  62. Ado Bakasa says:

    Hi I had a back op in 2002, the scares have fully healed, and I had no problems with them healing too, yet the injured area at certain times of the year itch like mad. it’s not on skin it’s deeper, feels like it could be the tissue or something. And I think it happens in winter. What could be the cause?

  63. Jessica Noack says:

    I had my tubes tied in 2008. Now my scar is itching like crazy? When I scratch clear liquid comes out? Should I be concerned about that?

  64. I had a faciotomy done 4 months ago… every time I take a step I get a shooting pain that starts at the shin and moves towards my big toe, what can I do to fix that?

  65. Im almost 8 weeks after i gave birth through C section on my 3rd week i had an itchiness around my scar it becomes red like rashes and bumpy no fever and no pain on my scar beforehand i ate some chicken and egg my itchiness become crazy it is possible the food and the healing process i apply some creme for a week and its ok now but it turns to some brownish color around the scar is it ok…

  66. douglas smith says:

    Thank you for taking my post. I had bilateral inguinal hernia surgery 12 wks ago. Unfortunately, my left inguinal hernia was repair twice–nine months apart. The scar tissue at the incision, on both sides can get tender after a long day at the office. The left side especially will get very tender and sore, not itchy as most people, and I sense moderate nerve pain at the incision. I am making it a routine to ice the tender areas and to apply arnica gel around the scar tissues. For my left incision scar, is there anything I can add or do to ease the nerve pain or sensitivity as I work longer days or increase my activities, with moderation? Remember, the left side has had two surgeries in the same location. Thank you.

    • Hi Douglas, aggressive scar massage, as long as it is cleared by your surgeon, should help desensitize the area by breaking down scar tissue. Physical therapy techniques like deep tissue massage can also help, but again, you’ll need to clear this by your doctor first.

  67. I fell back in 2014 on ice. broke, fractured, and double dislocated my right leg and ankle. they did surgery and placed a plate and 6 screws initially. They took out the stabilizing screw and i still have the plate and 5 screws. I was intitally told there was a plate and 7 screws and that they removed one and there was a plate and 6 screws left. im not sure which is true. i have a scar on the outside of my right calf. here over the past week it has severely become raised, very itchy as well. I’ve been trying many different things to help the raised scar and itchiness on my leg. nothing is helping. should i be concerned?

    • Is it raised due to the inflammation from scratching? Are you experiencing dry skin in this area (scars need moisture everyday)? If it the inflammation seems atypical, then it’s always best to have your dr take a look.

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