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Prurigo nodularis is the formation of hard, itchy bumps on the skin. It can cause scratching so intense that the skin is scratched open.


Excessive scratching of an itch causes prurigo nodularis. The initial cause of the itch is not always clear.

Risk Factors

Health factors that may increase your risk of prurigo nodularis include:

  • Psychological conditions
  • Reduced function of the liver and kidneys
  • Skin conditions that cause itching such as eczema
  • HIV/immunodeficiency
  • Certain infections, such as hepatitis

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Skin lumps are small (usually < 2 cm) and hard. The top of the lumps may be dry and peeling, or if it has been scratched, may be open and bleeding.

Scratching makes prurigo nodularis worse. Scratching can also cause damage to the surface of the skin and increase your risk of infection. Over time, there may also be some scarring.

A key sign of a prurigo nodularis lump is intense itching. The itching may be constant or sporadic.


You will be asked about your symptoms and your medical history. The diagnosis may be made based on the appearance of your skin and your symptoms.

Your bodily fluids and tissues may be tested. This can be done with:

  • Blood tests
  • Skin biopsy

Treatment may take time and involve different therapies to find the best one that works for you. The goal is to reduce itchiness and prevent scratching.

Prurigo nodularis may be treated with:

  • Topical medications that are applied to the skin, such as steroids, coal tar, vitamin D, or capsaicin
  • Oral steroids or antihistimines
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Medications that suppress or modify the immune system
  • Antiseizure medications
  • Antiemetics

If initial treatment does not work your doctor may try:

  • Cryotherapy to freeze affected skin
  • Phototherapy
  • Pulsed dye laser

If prurigo nodularis affects your quality of life, consider talking to a counselor. Counseling may help you better manage the condition and how you respond to it.


Work with your doctor to manage any skin conditions that cause itching.

If you have a skin condition or bug bite that is causing itching, then try to avoid scratching. Consider using over the counter itch medication or ask your doctor about ways to relieve the itching.


American Academy of Dermatology

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians


Canadian Dermatology Association

The Eczema Society of Canada


Fostini AC, Girolomoni G, et al. Prurigo nodularis: an update on etiopathogenesis and therapy. J Dermatolog Treat. 2013;24(6):458-462.

Matthews SN, Cockerell CJ. Prurigo nodularis in HIV-infected individuals. Int J Dermatol. 1998 June; 37(6):401-9.

Nodular prurigo. DermNet NZ website. Available at: Updated September 2014. Accessed August 11, 2015.

Prurigo nodularis. American Osteopathic College of Dermatology website. Available at: Accessed August 11, 2015.

Prurigo nodularis website. Available at: Updated September 28, 2013. Accessed August 11, 2015.

Last reviewed September 2016 by Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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