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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Notalgia paresthetica

*

* Not a rare disease

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Overview

Notalgia paresthetica is a common chronic, localized itch, that usually affects patches of skin on the upper back. Occasionally be more widespread and involve other parts of the back, the shoulders and upper chest. People feel both the sensation of an itch and paresthesia (a sensation of tingling, pricking, or numbness of the skin).  There are no signs on the skin except for signs of chronic scratching and rubbing.  Amyloid deposits (a collection of a specific type of protein) may be found in skin biopsies, but this is thought to be a secondary event.  The cause of the itch in notalgia paresthetica may be due to the compression of spinal nerves by bones or muscles as the nerves emerge through the vertebrae to the back muscles.  Sometimes degenerative changes in the area of the vertebrae that innervate the affected back muscles can be seen, but not always.  Symptoms of notalgia paresthetica may respond to topical capsaicin treatment.[1][2]
Last updated: 6/14/2011

References

  1. Misery, Laurent. What is Notalgia paresthetica?. Dermatology. 2002;
  2. Greaves, Malcom W. Pathophysiology and Clinical Aspects of Pruritus. In: Freedberg, Irwin, et.al.. Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine, 6th Edition. United States: McGraw-Hill; 2003; 1:398.
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Basic Information

  • DermNet NZ is an online resource about skin diseases developed by the New Zealand Dermatological Society Incorporated. DermNet NZ provides information about this condition.
  • Skin Sight provides more information about notalgia paresthetica.  Click through the different sections on this condition using the bottom right hand buttons.

In Depth Information

  • Medscape Reference provides information on this topic. Click on the link to view this information. You may need to register to view the medical textbook, but registration is free.
  • PubMed is a searchable database of medical literature and lists journal articles that discuss Notalgia paresthetica. Click on the link to view a sample search on this topic.
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.