Why Is There An Itch In Hodgkin's Lymphoma?


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Julii Brainard answered
I think that the short answer is that no one is too sure.  The whole mechanism that causes a person to feel "itchy" is poorly understood, regardless of cause.  So many different things can make us itch, allergens, insect bites, topical irritants... And internal problems, which is the case in Hodgkins.

Although itching is one of the distinct symptoms of this disease, only 30-35% of Hodgkins lymphoma sufferers get it.  But it is quite severe, and peculiar in that it tends to be most severe on the feet and hands.  This unexplained chronic itching -- the technical name is "pruritus" -- is usually worse at night, and may precede other symptoms by many years.

One theory is that cytokines may be the problem.  Cytokines are a group of proteins that the body uses as chemical messengers; the lymph nodes release more cytokines when they are fighting cancer.

Excessive cytokine production can lead to itching (read more).  One of the functions of healthy lypmh nodes is to drain excess liquid from the skin.  If lymph node function is compromised by cancer, then the cytokines may concentrate in the skin, along with the extra fluids.

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