Pruritus is a frequently observed symptom in chronic cholestatic liver diseases. However, only a few reports have been published regarding the incidence and intensity of liver disease-associated pruritus. We assessed itching sensation by a questionnaire survey of 71 patients with chronic liver diseases including primary biliary cirrhosis, chronic hepatitis B, and chronic hepatitis C. In this study, half of the patients (36/71) suffered from itching sensation. Itching was frequently observed in the patients with primary biliary cirrhosis or liver cirrhosis due to hepatitis B or C. In patients with hepatitis C, pruritus was more frequently detected in the patients with liver cirrhosis than in those without it. The mean value of visual analogue scale measurements of pruritus was 19.2 ± 3.4 during the daytime and 25.9 ± 4.1 during the night in all of the patients who had pruritus (n = 36). Seventeen of the 36 patients (47.2%) with itching were treated with anti-histamines and topical ointments. Although 82.4% (14/17) of these patients experienced some limited alleviation of their itching sensation, complete suppression of pruritus was achieved in none of them. The clinical use of a κ-opioid receptor agonist that became available in 2015 in Japan may be a promising approach for treating liver disease-associated pruritus.
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