Acupuncture can significantly reduce itching in patients with atopic eczema. A German study has investigated the effect of acupuncture on type I hypersensitivity itch and skin reaction in a crossover RCT. An allergen stimulus was applied to the skin of 30 patients with atopic eczema before (direct approach) and after (preventive approach) the following treatments: acupuncture at Quchi L.I.-11 and Xuehai SP-10 (verum acupuncture, VA), sham acupuncture at non-acupuncture points (placebo acupuncture, PA), or no acupuncture (NA). Subjective itch intensity was recorded using a visual analogue scale and an itch questionnaire (IQ). Objective measurements of wheal and flare size and skin perfusion (via LASER-Doppler) were carried out at the stimulus site ten minutes after application of allergen. The scientists found that acupuncture performed within minutes of initial exposure to the allergen (direct approach) appeared to soothe subjective feelings of itchiness – itch intensity and IQ scores were significantly lower with VA compared to NA and PA. They also found that, when patients were exposed to the allergen after acupuncture (preventive approach), not only did subjective itch intensity and mean IQ scores decrease (significantly lower with VA and PA compared to NA), but they also tended to have a less severe skin reaction. Mean wheal and flare size were significantly smaller with VA compared to PA and NA, and mean perfusion was significantly less with VA than with NA. The results additionally showed that the preventive effect of verum acupuncture on subjective itch sensation diminished over time, whereas its suppressive effect on skin-prick reactions increased over time. (Influence of acupuncture on type I hypersensitivity itch and the wheal and flare response in adults with atopic eczema – a blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover trial. Allergy.. [Epub ahead of print]).

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