Neuropathic Pain

Pain can be defined as an unpleasant sensory and emotional response to tissue damage. Pain is experienced when nerve endings at the site of injury send pain signals to the brain. Neuropathic pain is an abnormal sensation that occurs when nerves are damaged or become dysfunctional causing a misfiring of pain signals to the brain.

Signs and Symptoms

Neuropathic pain can be experienced as burning, aching, shooting, stabbing or electric shock-like pain. It is often intense, worse at night and may lead to disability. Due to alteration in nerve sensitivity, pain may even be brought on by mild stimuli such as a gentle touch or a cold breeze.

Causes

The main cause of neuropathic pain is damage to the brain, spinal cord or peripheral nerves supplying the rest of the body. This can occur due to injury or disease. The possible causes of nerve damage include excessive alcohol consumption, nerve compression by a tumor, deficiency of vitamin B12, certain medicines, trauma and disease conditions such as multiple sclerosis, stroke, HIV/AIDS and diabetes.

Diagnosis

Neuropathic pain is diagnosed by reviewing your medical history and performing a thorough physical examination. Your doctor may also order blood tests, MRI scans, a nerve biopsy or nerve conduction tests.

Treatment

Your doctor may prescribe steroidal or non-steroidal pain medications depending on your level of pain. Anti-seizure, anti-arrhythmic or antidepressant drugs are also useful for managing neuropathic pain. Other recommendations include electrical nerve stimulation, implanted devices, acupuncture, physical therapy, massage therapy and cognitive behavior therapy.