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Chronic itchy skin disease yields to hot pepper

MUENSTER, GERMANY. Prurigo nodularis is a disease characterized by chronic itchy skin. It is very difficult to treat and most current treatment methods have serious side effects. Medical researchers at the University of Muenster now report excellent results using topical applications of capsaicin-based ointments. Capsaicin is an extract of cayenne pepper. The clinical trial involved 9 men and 24 women (aged between 23 and 85 years) who had suffered from severe prurigo nodularis for anywhere from 4 weeks to 42 years.

The patients applied an ointment containing between 0.05 and 0.1 per cent capsaicin four to six times daily for anywhere from 2 weeks to 10 months. All were followed up for an additional six months. All the patients obtained complete relief from itching within 12 days and 25 out of the 33 did so within 6 days. Once the itching and scratching were removed the skin started healing. Discontinuation of the capsaicin treatment brought renewed itching in some of the patients. This, according to the researchers, is to be expected until the underlying cause of the pruritus (iron deficiency, liver or thyroid dysfunction, gallbladder problems, diabetes, kidney disorders or cancer) is resolved. The researchers conclude that topical treatment of prurigo nodularis with capsaicin is effective and safe and results in termination of itching and clearing of skin lesions.
Stander, Sonja, et al. Treatment of prurigo nodularis with topical capsaicin. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Vol. 44, March 2001, pp. 471-78 [44 references]

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