What is Neuropathic Pain?

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Neuropathic pain (NeP) is the medical term for nerve pain. Nerve pain is difficult to diagnose and treat. Neuropathic pain is very different from other types of pain in patient description of the sensation. There are many causes of neuropathic pain, and this is often the difficult part of the diagnosis. A neurologist is a specialist that specializes in diagnosis and treatment of nerve problems.

Significance

Neuropathic pain affects between 5 to 10 percent of the population. However, neuropathic pain is underdiagnosed, so the number of individuals suffering from nerve pain is likely much higher.

Identification

Neuropathic pain presents as burning, tingling and shocklike sensations. The pain from neuropathy is sometimes stabbing. Other common symptoms include pain from light touch, exaggerated responses to touch or pain, pain that lingers too long and tingling or "pins and needles."

Types

Neuropathic pain is a result of injury to or disease in the nervous system. Diabetic peripheral neuropathy is a painful complication of diabetes that results in nerve pain. Postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) is a recurring or persistent pain after shingles infection. Trigeminal neuralgia involves nerve pain of the face. Compression neuropathies cause significant nerve pain due to nerve compression. Amputation can leave phantom limb pain, which is neuropathic pain. Multiple sclerosis attacks cause widespread nerve pain based on where the disease attacks the brain. Drugs, such as those used in chemotherapy, can cause nerve pain. Complex regional pain syndrome is a neurological condition that causes significant nerve pain.

Considerations

Nerve pain does not respond to pain medications. Standard treatments do not target pain that originates from the nerves, so this type of pain is very difficult to treat.

Treatments

Antidepressants can treat the psychological issues associated with neuropathic pain. For pain, doctors prescribe anything from anti-inflammatory medication to opioids. Anticonvulsants are sometimes effective at treating neuropathic pain. The FDA does not approve many of these medicines for neuropathic pain treatment.

Effects

Nerve pain is difficult to treat. It is often long term and worsens over time. Neuropathic pain can cause permanent disability. It often causes problems sleeping, which results in constant fatigue, concentration problems and drowsiness. Clothes can cause extreme pain in individuals who have issues with pain from light touch. Often, nerve disorders lead to depression, which results in further treatment and medication. Family members and caregivers also suffer from high stress from having to care for someone with such a confusing and difficult-to-treat disorder.

Warning

Nerve pain is usually indicative of a serious underlying problem. Make an appointment with a physician for evaluation if neuropathic pain is an issue.

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