Dysesthesia is a type of chronic pain that may be a symptom of the following:
- Autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and acute inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy
- Diabetes mellitus
- Alcohol or drug withdrawal
- Peripheral neuropathies (caused by injury, metabolic disorders, toxins, and inherited factors)
- Infections such as herpes zoster, human immunodeficiency virus, Epstein Barr virus, and leprosy
- Thalamic infarct (death of brain cells due to disrupted blood supply in the thalamus)
- Cancerous tumors
- Transverse myelitis (condition in which the immune system attacks a section of the spinal cord)
- Connective tissue disorders such as Sjögren syndrome and systemic sclerosis
- Nerve entrapment such as carpal tunnel syndrome
These conditions can cause nerve damage. When damage occurs to sensory nerves due to reduced blood supply or compression, they may cause incorrect or confused signals to the brain that result in pain and burning sensations.
What does dysesthesia feel like?
Dysesthesia can cause abnormal sensations in response to normal stimuli. For example, gentle touch may be perceived as unpleasant or painful. In some cases, it may cause insensitivity to stimuli or sensitivity in the absence of stimuli.
- Feeling that something is crawling on or under the skin
- Severe, sharp, shooting, or stabbing pain
- Discomfort or pain in the absence of any stimuli or in response to harmless stimuli such as light touch
- Pins and needles sensation
- Prickling sensation
- Feeling of tightness around the chest, arms or legs (called MS hug)
- Electric shock sensation
- Feeling of cold
- Feeling of wetness
How is dysesthesia treated?
Treatment of dysesthesia largely depends on the severity of symptoms, cause, and sites affected. Many times, dysesthesia is associated with mood disturbances such as anxiety, depression, and irritability, as well as lack of sleep and fatigue. These symptoms need to be addressed through treatment.
Dysesthesia treatment may involve the following:
- Topical treatment:
- Capsaicin cream
- Local anesthetic patches
- Combination gels or creams containing amitriptyline 1% with ketamine 0.5%
- Oral medications:
- Physical barriers:
- Thermoplastic facemasks to be worn at night
- Night-time arm splinting
- Botulinum A injection
- Intralesional steroid shots
- Transcutaneous electrical muscle stimulation
- Narrow-band ultraviolet radiation
- Alternative treatments:
Dysesthesia symptoms may resolve on their own, but they tend to recur and may worsen over time. Seek medical help if:
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