London - The wrinkle jab Botox may be an effective treatment for itchy skin conditions including eczema, according to new research.

Last month, doctors at Edinburgh University found that a woman who had suffered with itching on her arms and torso for 12 years reported a dramatic reduction in symptoms lasting six months after having Botox injections in the affected areas.

In a second case, a 55-year-old woman whose forehead had itched for six years was also successfully treated with the injection. And the University of Jena in Germany has reported that Botox provided a 12-fold reduction in symptoms in patients suffering with hand eczema.

Severe itchiness, known as pruritus, is thought to affect around 500,000 Britons. It can be a condition in its own right or a symptom of other problems, such as eczema or anaemia.

The cause is unknown but it has been linked to sun exposure and nerve damage. There are many treatments - including antihistamines and steroid creams - but many sufferers do not respond.

Botox injections contain the botulinum toxin, a protein produced by the same bacteria that causes botulism food poisoning. The toxin interferes with the brain chemical acetylcholine, which triggers the contraction of muscles - and one theory is that this chemical is also involved in triggering an itch.

Research carried out on eczema patients has shown that sufferers have greater sensitivity to acetylcholine. When healthy individuals were injected with acetylcholine it caused pain, but in those suffering with eczema, it resulted in an itch.

Professor Jonathan Rees, an independent expert in dermatology at the University of Edinburgh says, “More work needs to be done to ensure that the effect is real and can be used more widely. We understand that many itches are induced by histamine, but for the vast majority of itches we do not know the chemical trigger.” - Daily Mail