Why Do Scars Itch?

Why Do Scars Itch?

When you were young did you ever fall off your bike and end up with a big gash in your leg or around your knee? Do you remember what your mother told you besides to keep the area clean?

She probably said, “Stop scratching it. It can’t heal if you keep scratching.” Mom knew that scratching could definitely re-open the wound and even introduce bacteria into it that would cause an infection.

Why is it that scars itch?

Surprisingly, scientists only have theories on the answer. But first of all, you should know that scars that itch are a big problem in those who have been burned and in keloid scars. In fact, sometimes scientists divide people with scars into two groups for – those who have an itch on their scar six months or less after an injury that caused it (acute itch), and those who have itching more than six months after the injury (chronic itch).

Since scars can take a few years to heal, it’s conceivable that someone could have itching for the entire time! In one Texas study of 23 burn scar survivors, 87 percent had itching episodes daily.

Ninety-six percent had three or more episodes daily. And here’s the worst part – 52 percent had itching attacks that lasted up to 30 minutes each episode. Ninety-four percent reported that itching was unbearable in the chronic itch group; 86% in the acute itch group. They complained of severe burning and crawling sensations.

The good news is that as healing of the scar continued, the number of itch attacks decreased, as did the length of time the attack lasted.

In China, doctors at the Southern Medical University found a significant difference between the beta-endorphin levels found around the nerve fibers in the skin of the scar. The patients who had itch without pain or itch with pain had significantly more beta-endorphin than those without pain or itch or in the control group. The researchers are thinking that there’s some connection between beta-endorphin and itching, although they don’t know what exactly it is yet.

Beta-endorphin is the compound that your brain makes when you’re out running or exercising, listening to music, laughing or praying.

When scars were analyzed, there’s more than just beta-endorphin that can be found in the tissue. Scientists in Mexico City at a burn unit found Type 1 receptors for TNF-alpha in the blood vessels and IL-1beta in the keratinocytes and CD1a(+) cells. But like in the previous study, the scientists are still shaking their heads asking what it all means.

Itching is possibly caused by inflammation in the skin around the scar. We know this is probably true because antihistamines reduce it. But did you know that there’s a type of itch that antihistamines can’t reduce?

This tells us that there’s another part of the nervous system that is causing the nasty itch. It could result because of the activation of the opioid receptors found in the skin, reports Chinese scientists. Or maybe because itching is such a bother, the beta-endorphins are released in the skin to calm us all down!

How much itching do you experience with your scar?

Have you purchased InviCible Scars risk-free yet?

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.

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Comments

  1. kwezi christop[her says:

    I was operated and part of my skin was cut to do plastic surgery on my arm. Am now faced with itching around the are they scooped the skin from.
    Please help .

  2. Mark Morata says:

    Hi i have scar above my feet i got this when i fell down in a bike and after a month it becomes itchy so i have to scratch it and after i scrath it i feel like its burning then when i wake in the morning its itchy again, i uses different kind of ointment but it didn’t effect. Please help

  3. joannashawz says:

    My scar is a little over 4 yrs old and what I find intriguing is that it will go through periods of itching lasting various amounts of time, usually only a few days, with longer periods of not itching lasting months. The wound was at one time raised almost an inch high and a little smaller than a fifty cent piece. (it looked like a broken bone to me, but it wasn’t)The disfigurement remained for a very long time. This recent bout of itching(4-5 days) seems to coincide with a major chance in the skin returning to an much more normal shape almost pre-accident level. I have noticed the itching to coincide with vivid nightmares. Its amazing and obvious to me that my body is still undergoing major healing.

  4. Fell off my motor bike a few months back on gravel, got pale pink/white scar can sometimes go dark purple or purple, any reasons why it’s so itchy ?

  5. I have a scare on neck from thyroid surgery its 11years old. Lately its just been itching really bad!

    • Funny you should mention this. I have a pretty pale scar on my scalp from when I was a young kid. Am in my 20s now. I don’t remember a lot of itching while growing up, though I fidgeted a lot so I did itch some. In the last two years, I have noticed myself itching and rubbing it a lot. This scar has got to be at least 15 years old.

  6. hi, i had a fall on my head…which left me with a scar on my forehead (no stitches were done) and a little lump.
    I cant get rid of my lump….as apparently that would mean cutting my scalp and may not even help, but the scar itches …..and its been 3 years…..doesnt happen everyday….but what does it mean?
    thanks
    mlv

  7. L. Wenona Choyce says:

    I broke my neck and back in 2006. I have episodes of itching at the scar site on my neck. Is this normal and what can I do to combat the itching. It’s a crawling sensation that I feel all over my scalp. Even where the doctor inserted rods to keep my neck straight itches. What can I do?

  8. Allen Conley says:

    About a year and a half ago, I learned not to try drifting on a bicycle the hard way, a lesson that left me with a scar about the size of a quarter on my knee. Until about two weeks ago, it wasn’t giving me any problems. Unfortunately, I had a wreck about two weeks ago, and shortly after, my knee was constantly itchy. Is there some way the two could be related? I was in a car when I wrecked, but my legs didn’t collide with anything I had in my car besides the pants I had on (not denim or blue jeans, just cargos).

  9. I had surgery seven years ago and about a month ago this itch has not stopped, take benadryl every day, put on hydrocodone creams, clear creams and itch is constant, anyone have suggestions

  10. My mother hav burn scar on their left thigh and that burnt area healdup a month ago but now that burnt area started itching again and very much painfull . Kindly help me.

    • Hi Vivek, although it may appear healed on the outside, it takes a full 1-2 years for a scar to be healed under the top layer of the skin. Itching is a normal part of the healing process as this happens. To relieve the itch, apply a hydrocortisone cream. To fade the scar itself, apply a scar treatment.

  11. My scar has just recently started to itch. It also swelled up. My scar is shiny too. Is anyone else’s like that? I put some itching medicine on it and it went away, but it left the are swelled up. Anyone have any advice for the swelling, or does anyone know what this is?

    • Hi Carley, try an anti-inflammatory like aloe to try to decrease the swelling. If you haven’t used a scar treatment yet, InviCible Scars contains aloe, as well as other ingredients to target inflammation as well as fading the scar.

      • I was hit by a car in 2002 and my scars hav been pu ffing up and down and itching on and off years later I also had a lipoma r3moved in dec 2015 and the scar is itching lately .

        • Hi Lucy, it could be due to damaged nerve endings or dryness in the scar. Scars don’t have sweat glands, so be sure you are applying a hydrating lotion daily. For itchiness, try an antihistamine cream or even applying ice.

  12. Has a squamous cell carsonoma removed over a year ago on my chest. Since then almost daily, the itching is unbearable. I also have scar tissue underneath the surgery site the size of a marble. Have had several injections into the scar. Any suggestions for the chronic itching?

    • Hi Tracy, unfortunately itching is part of the healing process which can take 1-2 years. Apply hydrocortisone to the site to help decrease the itching. As for the marble sized scar tissue, massage this area 2x daily when applying your scar treatment. Massage helps to break up the bands of tissue beneath and will aid in flattening it a bit. Here’s more info about massaging your scar: http://scarsandspots.com/how-do-you-soften-scar-tissue

      • It is Tracy again. Another question. I received a steroid shot into the scar last month. Itching still continued every day. But now the scar tissue area is not only marble size, it has now spread into a larger mass. Now the size of a quarter and raised above the skin where it is very noticable. . I have been told by my dermatologist that there is nothing they can do for me other than to see a plastic surgeon. Should I get a second opinion?

  13. I ve dis little scar on my side top head it has been up to 5years I got dis injury but sometimes it swells up a little and starts itching am so tired with the little pain it gives me and the itching. what is the cause? and what do I do ?

    • Hi Chinedu, Scar swelling 5 yrs out is unusual. Occasional tenderness and itching typically occurs as the scar matures (up to 2 yrs), and sometimes beyond that.
      The scalp is very vascular. You may also be noticing changes secondary to increased blood flow associated with activity.

  14. I have this scar on my left leg. I had an insect infection which festered about 10 years ago. It keeps itching me especially immediately after i take a bath. The skin about the scar looks a little scaly, raises up sometimes and the patch seems to be spreading. what is the cause for this and what can i do?

    • Hi Bidemi, Skin can behave differently after an injury and scarring. It can also trigger other underlying skin problems (eg eczema, psoriasis). We recommend you see a dermatologist to be sure.

  15. Ok so I’ve read the comments an I understand there’s a connection between scars an itching/dry skin but my concern is, I know have nerve damage on my knuckle from putting my hand through a tomato slicer at work. my skin gets dry around the area an starts burning and itching the wound is completely healed “open wound” wise, but still when I put ANY kind of anti itch I break out in what looks like to be hives (side note: I’ve never had an issue with anti itch creams I use them a lot for bug bite an poisons in summer) an it burns even worse than before. I’ve also tried some moisturizers but none is helping an seems to be making irritation worse also makes my skin feel tight… Please help before I rip my hand open from scratching

  16. Bunion surgery Sept 30, 2015
    Big toe bone cut and realigned
    Scar is itching, is that normal

  17. I had a hysterectomy 12 years ago. My scar itches all the time. I scratch so much that the area around has turned black. Should my scar still itch?

    • Hi Tasha, Not usually, unless the itching was aggressive and traumatized and inflamed the scar. That could then lead to hyperpigmentation. Scars can itch for a while after the initial skin injury but can also start itching many years later. If your scar has changed significantly recently we recommend you consult with a dermatologist for a formal evaluation.

  18. Had endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery 2 months ago. All is well except scar itches which I understand is normal , but find my wrist always very warm. Is this normal too? I have to cool it off with ice pack . Thanks

    • Hi Gwen, Warmth is a sign of increased blood flow to the area. That happens during normal healing but can also be a sign of underlying infection. Please get it checked out by your doc to make sure everything is ok.

  19. I have two scars one on my middle toe from a sliding closet door and one on my index finger from working on a car and they both itch. My finger is the most recent scar I got. My toe was done six years ago. Why are they itching still?

  20. Ka'iulani says:

    I have scars on my thighs, wrists and arms from self harm and they itch NONSTOP. Some of these scars I’ve had for over a year and they continuously itch and hurt/sting. I think depth has something to deal with it because only the deep ones itch really bad. Is there anything I can do to try and reduce the itching or, on a random thought, even make them fade without the use of InviCible (because I don’t got money :P)

    • Hi Ka’iulani, it is likely that you may have damaged some nerve endings or it could be the scars healing (which is entirel normal during the healing process.) You can apply anti-itch creams to try to help diminish the itchiness.

  21. I had lung surgery (lobectomy) in 1989… I found this site today because..once again having horrific itching of the incision scar.. It is so bad I scratch it in my sleep and wake up with bloody scabby marks..so for me 25 plus year of horrific itching episodes 😫

  22. I had so small scars on my scalp one year ago due to Hair transplant they even not scars but change in skin texture,
    because they ae so many they do not look normal and the area look shiny in ugly way and itchy when i m outdoor
    I m planning to remove the hair as it looks fake and ugly and cause a lot problem for me but i want to know can those scars and skin texture healed and back normal again or o i just lost my skin forever

  23. I hurt my foot by a pole smashing into it leaving the top of my heel a big cut, it was pretty wide it almost needed stiches but i refused.around the cut area it has a little lump.It has been a few months and sometimes it itches and in the shower it turns purple.What do you recommend?

    • Hi Kate, we’d recommend having your dr take a look at it. It could just be scar tissue, and you can soften it by massaging the lump twice daily. The purple discoloration could be the scar as well. But best to have your dr take a look.

  24. Jennifer Trujillo says:

    I had breast reduction in 2006 and my scar itches all the time to the point I make it bleed what in the world is this

  25. Please help me
    My age is 22
    My left leg toes got scar since 8yrs and it’s itching on every night
    I’m scratch on itchy time
    It will bleed sometimes blood and sometimes water
    I counseled many dermatologist doctor
    They give me more tablets and oilment
    I take medicines
    That time problem solved and invisible scars(wounded)
    But I don’t take medicines it comes back and so itchy on nit and i control sometimes don’t scratch but sometimes during sleeping it’s itching I’ll scratch and my sleep was gone and pain is so burning on the wound

    Please help me
    What I do

    1.I do surgery

    Or

    2.normal treatment

    Please reply me and help

  26. I have a c-section scar that periodically itches uncontrollably that can last for days or sometimes weeks. The area of around my lower stomach above the scar and the scar itself itch on the inside & feels so out of control the only thing I know to do is take a towel and rubbbed hard back and forth which gives me some relief. Is there anything I can do to stop the insanity of the itch I can’t actually scratch????

    • Hi Mikia, aside from over the counter anti-itch creams, ice sometimes helps or you can ask your dr. about topical lidocaine. Scars can also itch if they are not moisturized enough (they do not have the glands that normal skin tissue does to do this), so make sure you are using a very hydrating cream like shea butter to help prevent itching.

  27. Please help I had a cut on my foot on the small toes long time ago 20 years later the cut irritates me with moderate pain when I wore closed shoes it has some black marks on it.,please advise if this needs urgent check or should I just ignore and live with this?

  28. Help a old small scar I have has become itchy and the scar itself has risen to become a bump similar to a bug bite

  29. So, supposedly when I was two years old. I got burnt on the inside of my foot with an clothes iorn. I’ve never been to the doctor for it. I was also told that, at the time I got burned. There was absolutely no mark, redness or anything. Anyways…. after saying all this. It itches all the time. At first it was more an itch that felt relief when I rubbed my foot up against something. Now it just hurts horribly bad, and stings. There is also a vein that runs threw it that shows up more than others some days. I really wished I had more insight on if this burn was caused by a iorn, or not. It looks really bad, which I can deal with. I have for 33 years now. I’m just concerned about the pain. Any answers would be greatly appreciated!

  30. Hello,

    I received a small pox vaccination in the military in 2003. Now, all of a sudden 14 years later, the site is turning pink and starting to itch. Why is this coming back so long after ? Should I be concerned?

    Thanks

    • Hi Bryan, do you keep the area well moisturized? Scar tissue doesn’t have sweat glands and requires daily application of some sort of hydration. If that area is unusually dry (say due to winter weather, etc.) it could cause the scar to itch and turn red. Applying an anti-itch cream should help with the itching (even applying ice wrapped in a cloth can help.) To decrease the redness, you may need to apply a scar treatment.

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