Special Report

Clinical Classification of Itch: a Position Paper of the International Forum for the Study of Itch

Sonja Ständer, Elke Weisshaar, Thomas Mettang, Jacek C. Szepietowski, Earl Carstens, Akihiko Ikoma, Nora V. Bergasa, Uwe Gieler, Laurent Misery, Joanna Wallengren, Ulf Darsow, Markus Streit, Dieter Metze, Thomas A. Luger, Malcolm W. Greaves, Martin Schmelz, Gil Yosipovitch and Jeffrey D. Bernhard
DOI: 10.2340/00015555-0305


Chronic itch is a common and distressing symptom that arises from a variety of skin conditions and systemic diseases. Despite this, there is no clinically based classification of pruritic diseases to assist in the diagnosis and cost-effective medical care of patients with pruritus. The proposed classification focuses on clinical signs and distinguishes between diseases with and without primary or secondary skin lesions. Three groups of conditions are proposed: pruritus on diseased (inflamed) skin (group I), pruritus on non-diseased (non-inflamed) skin (group II), and pruritus presenting with severe chronic secondary scratch lesions, such as prurigo nodularis (group III). The next part classifies the underlying diseases according to different categories: dermatological diseases, systemic diseases including diseases of pregnancy and drug-induced pruritus, neurological and psychiatric diseases. In some patients more than one cause may account for pruritus (category “mixed”) while in others no underlying disease can be identified (category “others”). This is the first version of a clinical classification worked out by the members of the International Forum for the Study of Itch. It is intended to serve as a diagnostic route for better evaluation of patients with chronic pruritus and aims to improve patients' care.

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