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Antipruritic and thermal sensation effects of hydrocortisone creams in human skin.

Author(s): Zhai H, Frisch S, Pelosi A, Neibart S, Maibach HI

Affiliation(s): Department of Dermatology, University of California, San Francisco, Calif., USA.

Publication date & source: 2000-11, Skin Pharmacol Appl Skin Physiol., 13(6):352-7.

Publication type: Clinical Trial; Randomized Controlled Trial

Few studies evaluate the effect of topical corticosteroids on thermal sensation and in alleviation of itch produced by intradermal injection of histamine. We evaluated the antipruritic effect of hydrocortisone (1% and 2.5%) on histamine-induced itch and sensory effects by measuring itch magnitude, itch duration and thermal thresholds using a computerized thermal sensory analyzer (TSA). This was a double-blind, random, comparative, controlled, single-dose and single-center study. Itch was experimentally induced in both forearms by intracutaneous injection of histamine in 18 subjects. Hydrocortisone 1%, 2.5% and placebo were applied to test sites on both forearms. The thermal threshold for warmth sensation, cold sensation, cold and heat pain was measured with the TSA. Itch magnitude was measured each minute after histamine injection for 10 min with a visual analogue scale (VAS). Itch duration was also recorded. In comparison to placebo, 2.5% hydrocortisone significantly (p = 0.03) reduced itch duration from 12.6 +/- 11.0 min (mean +/- SD) to 8.6 +/- 8.2 min (the reducing rate was 32%) as well as itch magnitude (at minutes 3, 6, 7 and overall). Placebo, 1% and 2.5% hydrocortisone significantly altered (p <0.05) the cold sensation threshold. No treatment altered cold or heat pain thresholds. These data suggest that topical application of 2.5% hydrocortisone may be significantly beneficial for the treatment of histamine-induced itch. The correlation between thermal measurements and antipruritic effects warrants further study.

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