Aquagenic pruritus

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Aquagenic pruritus
SpecialtyDermatology Edit this on Wikidata

Aquagenic pruritus is a skin condition characterized by the development of severe, intense, prickling-like epidermal itching without observable skin lesions and evoked by contact with water.[1][2]


Presentation varies from person to person. Some people have discrete attacks, which can last between 10 and 120 minutes[3] while others are symptomatic almost constantly due to atmospheric humidity levels and/or sweating. Itching most frequently occurs on the legs, arms, chest, back, and abdomen, though it can also occur elsewhere.[4]

Itching on contact with water that also includes hives is known as Aquagenic Urticaria.


The exact mechanism of the condition is unknown. Some studies have suggested the itching occurs in response to increased fibrinolytic activity in the skin,[5][6] inappropriate activation of the sympathetic nervous system,[7] or increased activity of Acetylcholinesterase.[8][9]


No definitive medical test is known for aquagenic pruritus. Rather, diagnosis is made by excluding all other possible causes of the patient's itching, including polycythemia vera. Since pruritus is a symptom of many serious diseases, it is important to rule out other causes before making a final diagnosis.[10]


Since the cause of the condition cannot be fully avoided in all cases, treatment is usually focused on topical itch management. This can be effected by the application of antipruritic lotions or creams, using phototherapy, or the application of hot or cold packs to the skin after water contact.[11] Paradoxically, hot baths or showers help many patients, possibly because heat causes mast cells in the skin to release their supply of histamine and to remain depleted for up to 24 hours afterward.[12][13]

H1 and H2 blockers, such as loratadine, doxepin, or cimetidine, have historically been the first line of pharmacological treatment, but not all sufferers find relief with these medications. When antihistamines do work, loratadine seems to be the most effective for mild cases and doxepin most effective for more severe cases.

Naltrexone, hydrocortisone, or propranolol may relieve itching for some people.[14][7]

Sertraline or other Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) is also a line of treatment.


The name is derived from Latin: aquagenic, meaning water-induced, and pruritus, meaning itch.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Freedberg, Irwin M.; Eisen, Arthur Z.; Wolff, Klaus; Austen, K. Frank; Goldsmith, Lowell A.; Katz, Stephen I., eds. (2003). Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine (6th ed.). McGraw-Hill. p. 401. ISBN 978-0-07-138066-9.
  2. ^ James, William Daniel; Berger, Timothy G.; Elston, Dirk M. (2005). Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology (10th ed.). Saunders. p. 56. ISBN 978-0-7216-2921-6.
  3. ^ Steinman, Howard K.; Greaves, Malcolm W. (1985). "Aquagenic pruritus". Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 13 (1): 91–6. doi:10.1016/S0190-9622(85)70149-1. PMID 2411768.
  4. ^ "Aquagenic pruritus". U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  5. ^ Sekar, Cshanmuga; Jacob, Sheja; Srinivas, CR (2011). "Aquagenic pruritus: Beneath water 'lies'". Indian Journal of Dermatology. 56 (4): 446–7. doi:10.4103/0019-5154.84734. PMC 3179019. PMID 21965864.
  6. ^ Lotti, T.; Steinman, H. K.; Greaves, M. W.; Fabbri, P.; Brunetti, L.; Panconesi, E. (1986). "Increased Cutaneous Fibrinolytic Activity in Aquagenic Pruritus". International Journal of Dermatology. 25 (8): 508–10. doi:10.1111/j.1365-4362.1986.tb00863.x. PMID 3771051.
  7. ^ a b Nosbaum, Audrey; Pecquet, Catherine; Bayrou, Olivier; Amsler, Emmanuelle; Nicolas, Jean F.; Bérard, Frédéric; Francès, Camille (2011). "Treatment with propranolol of 6 patients with idiopathic aquagenic pruritus". The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 128 (5): 1113. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2011.05.001. PMID 21616525.
  8. ^ Bircher, Andreas J.; Meier-Ruge, William (1988). "Aquagenic Pruritus: Water-Induced Activation of Acetylcholinesterase". Arch. Dermatol. 124 (1): 84–89. doi:10.1001/archderm.1988.01670010048020.
  9. ^ Kligman, Albert M.; Greaves, Malcolm W.; Steinman, Howard (1986). "Water-Induced Itching Without Cutaneous Signs: Aquagenic Pruritus". Arch. Dermatol. 122 (2): 183–186. doi:10.1001/archderm.1986.01660140073021.
  10. ^ Butler, David F (Aug 17, 2018). James, William D (ed.). "Pruritus and Systemic Disease". Medscape.
  11. ^ Holme, S. A.; Anstey, A. V. (2001). "Aquagenic pruritus responding to intermittent photochemotherapy". Clinical and Experimental Dermatology. 26 (1): 40–1. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2230.2001.00757.x. PMID 11260176.
  12. ^ People's Pharmacy (2012-06-18). "Hot Water for Itches". Retrieved 25 July 2012.
  13. ^ Sulzberger, Marion B (1961). Dermatology: Diagnosis and Treatment (2nd ed.). Chicago: Year Book Publishers. p. 94. ISBN 978-0801648083. Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  14. ^ Ingber, Sarah; Cohen, Paul D. (2006). "Successful Treatment of Refractory Aquagenic Pruritus with Naltrexone". Journal of Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery. 9 (5): 215–6. doi:10.1007/s10227-005-0144-x. PMID 16502200.

Further reading

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