Uremic pruritus in chronic hemodialysis patients

Ichiei Narita, Seitaro Iguchi, Kentaro Omori, Fumitake Gejyo
Journal of Nephrology 2008, 21 (2): 161-5
Skin itching (pruritus) affects 50%-90% of patients undergoing peritoneal dialysis or hemodialysis and the symptoms range from localized and mild to generalized and severe. Among the dermatological abnormalities associated with end-stage renal disease, pruritus is the most prevalent. Of all systemic disorders, uremia is the most important cause of pruritus. The mechanism underlying uremic pruritus is poorly understood: secondary hyperparathyroidism, divalent-ion abnormalities, histamine, allergic sensitization, proliferation of skin mast cells, iron-deficiency anemia, neuropathy and neurological changes, or a combination of these have been hypothesized. Severe pruritus not only affects the quality of life but is also associated with poor outcome in chronic hemodialysis patients. No specific, effective treatment is currently available for uremic pruritus. Further studies are necessary to evaluate the long-term efficacy and safety of a novel kappa-opioid agonist, nalfurafine. Early diagnosis and treatment of uremic pruritus focusing on general strategies that include the optimization of dialysis dose, erythropoiesis-stimulating agents, and management of secondary hyperparathyroidism is recommended.

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