Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit, the AAFP patient education website.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Neurotic Excoriations - Skin Lesions Produced by Scratching


Am Fam Physician. 2001 Dec 15;64(12).

  See related article on neurotic excoriations.

What are neurotic excoriations?

Neurotic excoriations (say: x-kor-ee-a-shuns) are scrapes and scabs caused when you scratch or pick at your skin. The scabs are on easy-to-reach parts of your body, such as your face, upper back, upper arms and legs. There isn't a physical reason that your skin itches. The scratching is usually caused by an emotional problem.

What are neurotic excoriations?

Your doctor will make sure there is no medical reason for your itching. Some of these medical reasons might be allergies, kidney disease, liver disease, diabetes or cancer. Instead, you may have an emotional reason, such as a mood disorder, anxiety or depression, that makes your skin itch.

How is it treated?

You can't just make yourself stop itching. Your family doctor can give you some medicines that can help you to stop itching and feel better.

  • Antihistamines can help stop the itching.

  • Antibiotics will help if the skin lesions are infected.

  • Topical steroids will help to decrease the redness and swelling, and the itching.

  • Antidepressants will help with the mood disorder.

Your doctor may also have you talk to a counselor. A counselor can help you with the emotional stress that makes you want to scratch and pick at your skin.

In some cases, your doctor may recommend hypnosis or acupuncture. You may also try putting skin lotion on your body whenever you feel like picking or scratching at your skin.

This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.


Copyright © 2001 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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