A new study finds that the level of pleasure of scratching in response to an itch is related to the itch’s location.

In a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology, researcher Gil Yosipovitch, M.D., Ph.D., professor of dermatology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and a world-renowned itch expert induced an itch on the ankles, forearms and backs of 18 study participants with cowhage spicules, which come from a type of legume found in tropical areas that are known to cause intense itching.

In recording the itch intensity and scratching pleasure researchers found that itch was most intense at the ankle and back, while the perception of itch and scratching relief were less on the forearm.

Additionally they authors found that the “pleasurability of scratching the ankle appears to be longer lived compared to the other two sites."

Yosipovitch believes this study brings researchers a step closer to better understand itch and how to relieve it for people who have skin disease.

"We see commonly involved areas such as the ankle and back in itchy patients with skin disorders caused by eczema or psoriasis," he said.

"We never understood why those areas were more affected, and now we better understand that itch in these areas is more intense and pleasurable to scratch."

It is known that small nerve fibers are involved in unpleasant sensations such as itch and pain, explained Yosipovitch, but he and other researchers now suspect that there are also specific nerve fibers involved in pleasure.

"If we could translate this to a treatment that induces a pleasurable relief sensation without damaging the skin, we may be able to help itchy patients," he said.