Q: A few weeks ago, I noticed a tan patch of skin developing on the upper
left side of my back. At first the area was only slightly darker in color, but
now it's really itchy and sometimes it burns. What is it and how can I clear
Dr. Donnica: Like all skin conditions, it is nearly impossible to make a
diagnosis without examining the affected area. Having said this, it sounds like
you're describing a rare condition called notalgia paresthetica. It's believed
to be a sensory neuropathy involving the dorsal spinal nerves. The classic symptoms
are as you've described: itchiness over the affected area, occasionally accompanied
by pain, altered sensation, and a well-defined patch of darker skin (hyperpigmentation)
in the symptomatic area. While the cause of this condition is not well understood,
many patients with this condition have various degenerative conditions of the
spine, which may be related. You should consult your primary care physician who
will need to examine the affected area as well as order spinal x-rays.
Created: 11/7/2004  - Donnica Moore, M.D.