Are itch and chronic pain associated in adults? Results of a large population survey in Norway

Dermatology. 2007;214(4):305-9. doi: 10.1159/000100881.


Background: Few large-scale epidemiological studies have been performed on the prevalence of itch. Itch and pain are common and complex symptoms which contribute to the burden of disease. Although there is antagonistic interaction between itch and pain, there are also many similarities in their pathophysiology.

Objective: To investigate possible associations between chronic itch and chronic pain in a large population.

Methods: The design was cross-sectional. 18,770 adults completed a self-administered questionnaire addressing sociodemographic factors, psychosocial factors and self-reported health including chronic itch and chronic pain.

Results: Individuals reporting pain and itch were more likely to be women (80 and 60%, respectively, compared to 55% in the total sample), had a lower income (49 and 37% compared to 32%), were more likely to be depressed (36 and 20% compared to 11%) and reported poorer well-being (74 and 34% compared to 25%). In an adjusted logistic regression, chronic pain was strongly associated with chronic itch (OR = 1.79, 95% CI = 1.43-2.24).

Conclusion: This study demonstrates the association of chronic itch and chronic pain and points out the need of further studies that focus on both symptoms in dermatological diseases.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Pain / complications
  • Pain / epidemiology*
  • Pruritus / complications
  • Pruritus / epidemiology*