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5 Ways To Practice Self-Care With Prurigo Nodularis

Medically reviewed by Raj Chovatiya, MD, PhD, MSCI
Posted on February 9, 2024

If you’re living with prurigo nodularis (PN), you know the importance of being gentle and patient with yourself when symptoms become uncomfortable, inconvenient, and even isolating. Both the physical and psychological symptoms of this condition can be hard to treat with medication alone. That’s why it’s important to find self-care strategies that you can use every day.

On MyPrurigoTeam, one member asked, “How is everyone coping with PN? I miss my ‘old life.’” Self-care that prioritizes both your physical and mental health is necessary to keep your PN under control and improve your quality of life.

What Is Self-Care?

Self-care for people living with chronic (ongoing) diseases includes the actions one takes to live a healthy lifestyle to meet all of their health needs in the short and long term. These can include activities that benefit mental, physical, and emotional health.

However, according to a study published in JAMA Dermatology, 71 percent of participants living with PN reported that their condition had a negative impact on their self-care practices.

Self-care is essential for people with chronic disease to manage their medical conditions between doctors’ appointments and medication doses. In this article, we discuss five self-care strategies that people living with PN can use in their daily lives.

1. Avoid Scratching and Picking Skin

It’s easier said than done to avoid scratching itchy bumps. However, treatment won’t work if you succumb to the itch — old nodules won’t heal and new ones could develop. This creates an itch-scratch cycle that is extremely hard to break. What can you do to reduce itchy skin and promote healing?

Prurigo nodularis nodules can trigger a powerful urge to scratch your skin. (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 NZ/DermNet)


According to the American Academy of Dermatology, one solution is to cover up areas where you’re experiencing a flare. Whether you use clothing, bandages, or even medicated tape, having skin lesions protected from your fingernails can reduce the urge to scratch.

Another solution is to keep your fingernails and toenails short. When you find yourself itching, your nails will do less damage if they are kept dull.

Finally, wearing gloves or mittens can make it harder for you to scratch yourself enough to cause harm. However, be wary of overheating, as this may trigger a PN flare-up.

The less you scratch, the faster your PN can heal and the less itchiness you’ll experience.

2. Find an Effective Skin Care Plan — and Stick To It

PN can be difficult to treat, and it may take time and trying many treatments or combinations before you and your dermatologist find what works for you. Don’t give up on your treatment — if you follow your plan, it will be more likely to work over time.

Some prurigo nodularis treatment options may include:

  • Anti-itch cream (such as calamine lotion) that includes camphor or menthol
  • Fragrance-free topical moisturizers, cleansers, soaps, and emollients (ingredients in a moisturizer)
  • Medical tape coated with a corticosteroid (steroid) ointment
  • Phototherapy, also known as light therapy
  • Cryosurgery, to target lesions that haven’t responded to other therapy
  • New immunotherapy options

Work with your doctor to create a skin care regimen that works well for you. Stay in touch with your health care team about symptoms, side effects, and any trouble you have sticking with treatment. It may require time to see positive change, but finding a regimen that keeps your symptoms at bay can be life-changing.

3. Keep a Trigger Journal

By keeping track of your symptoms and their triggers, you can do your best to avoid them in the future. Making this effort is a great act of self-care, as it may help you feel better overall and can also help you better communicate with your doctor about your condition.

Some ways that people with PN may choose to keep track of their symptoms and triggers include:

  • Handwritten journals
  • Spreadsheets or computer documents
  • Phone apps

After picking a method that you know you can stick to, you can keep track of lifestyle and environmental factors such as sleep, diet, weather, medications, and your symptoms.

4. Manage Other Health Conditions

PN is sometimes found alongside other skin conditions, such as atopic dermatitis (eczema), contact dermatitis, lichen planus, and bullous pemphigoid. Further, people with allergies, infections, heart and lung diseases, cancer, and several other chronic diseases may be more likely to experience PN.

In some cases, keeping your underlying conditions under control may help ease PN skin lesions and vice versa. Even if PN bothers you the most, caring for your whole body and getting treatment for all conditions may help your skin, too. Work with your primary care doctor to manage your health as one big picture, rather than having them consider your skin symptoms alone.

5. Take Care of Your Mental Health

Skin health and mental health are closely related. Skin conditions like PN can lead to judgment, stigma, and isolation. One study in JAMA Dermatology identified some of the negative mental health effects faced by people with PN. Some major findings included:

  • Impact on mood — Most participants (20 out of 21) reported that PN had an unfavorable impact on their mood.
  • Shame — Eighty-five percent of the study participants felt embarrassment about their condition.
  • Depression — More than half of participants reported feeling depressed because of their PN, which some said was due to the inability to do activities they did before their diagnosis.

If you are feeling any of these emotions, you are not alone. Your mental health is legitimate and should be cared for just like your physical health. Taking care of mental health is different for everyone and may involve the following:

  • Counseling — Whether online or in person, speaking openly about your mental health with a trusted provider can help you cope with the stress of living with a chronic skin disease.
  • Support group — Talking to others who understand, whether virtually on MyPrurigoTeam or in an in-person support group, can be the first step to reducing isolation and fighting stigma.
  • Medications — Certain drugs, such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, can help you keep your mental health in check alongside these other self-care practices.
  • Favorite activity — Whether you prefer exercise, knitting, or calling a friend, spending time every day doing something you enjoy can help you cope with the stress of PN and improve your quality of life.

Connect With Others Who Understand

It’s easy to feel stressed and alone when living with prurigo nodularis, but coping is easier with the support of others who understand. On MyPrurigoTeam, the social network for those with PN, more than 2,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their experiences with prurigo nodularis.

How do you practice self-care while living with PN? Share your experience and tips in the comments below or by posting on your Activities page.

    Posted on February 9, 2024
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    Raj Chovatiya, MD, PhD, MSCI is an assistant professor of dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, Illinois. Learn more about him here.
    Scarlett Bergam, M.P.H. is a medical student at George Washington University and a former Fulbright research scholar in Durban, South Africa. Learn more about her here.

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