Print friendly version
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.
Your QuestionIs notalgia paresthetica hereditary? Can it be cured? How can this condition be treated?
We have identified the following information that we hope you find helpful. If you still have questions, please contact us.
Questions on this page
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.
Last updated: 6/14/2011
After an extensive search of the resources available to us, we have found no indication that this condition is hereditary. While the exact cause of notalgia paresthetica remains unclear, it is widely believed to be a neurogenic itch resulting from spinal nerve impingement or chronic nerve trauma.
Last updated: 4/8/2011
No. At this time, notalgia paresthetica remains a chronic noncurable condition with periodic remissions and exacerbations.
Last updated: 4/8/2011
While this condition may be difficult to treat, typical neuralgia therapies are often employed with moderate success. Effective measures may include:
- Cooling lotions as required (camphor and menthol)
- Capsaicin cream - this depletes nerve endings of their chemical transmitters
- Local anaesthetic creams
- Amitriptyline tablets at night
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
- Botulinum toxin
Additional information about treatment of notalgia paresthetica can be accessed by clicking here.You can find relevant journal articles on treatment of notalgia paresthetica through a service called PubMed, a searchable database of medical literature. Information on finding an article and its title, authors, and publishing details is listed here. Some articles are available as a complete document, while information on other studies is available as a summary abstract. To obtain the full article, contact a medical/university library (or your local library for interlibrary loan), or order it online using the following link. Using 'notalgia paresthetica AND treatment' as your search term should locate 10 articles. Click here to view a search.
Last updated: 6/8/2011
- Misery, Laurent. What is Notalgia paresthetica?. Dermatology. 2002;
- 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.
- Fleisher AB, Meade TJ, Fleisher AB. Notalgia Paresthetica: Successful Treatment with Exercises. Acta Dermato Venereologica. 2010; http://www.medicaljournals.se/acta/content/?doi=10.2340/00015555-1039&html=1. Accessed 4/8/2011.
- Savk E, Savk O, Bolukbasi O, Culhaci N, Dikicioglu E, Karaman G, Sendur N. Notalgia paresthetica: a study on pathogenesis. Int J Dermatol. 2000; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11095194. Accessed 4/8/2011.
- Notalgia Paraesthetica Information for adults . Logical Images, Inc. 2008; http://www.skinsight.com/adult/notalgiaParaesthetica-whosAtRisk.htm. Accessed 4/8/2011.
- Notalgia paraesthetica. DermNet NZ. 2010; http://dermnetnz.org/systemic/notalgia-paraesthetica.html. Accessed 4/8/2011.
- Alai NN, Skinner HB, Nabili ST, Jeffes E, Shahrokni S, Saemi AM. Notalgia paresthetica associated with cervical spinal stenosis and cervicothoracic disk disease at C4 through C7. Cutis. 2010; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20349681. Accessed 4/8/2011.