Neuropathic (nerve) pain may result from a disorder or injury to the peripheral or central nervous system. The pain signal to the brain helps to assess any damage to tissues and organs within the body. Chronic pain can be categorized based on the pain pathway, as nociceptive pain and neuropathic pain.
Nociceptive pain is a simple perception of any injury that emits from the nerve ending which sends pain signals to the brain. This type of pain can be easily managed with traditional painkillers. Neuropathic pain is a very intense type of chronic pain that produces a burning sensation. Damage to the nerves causes non-painful signals like touching and cold to also result in intolerable pain. The pain is usually worse at night and is difficult to treat.
The main cause behind the development of neuropathic pain is related to dysfunction of either the central or peripheral nervous system. The central nervous system involves problems related to brain and spinal cord, while peripheral involves nerves linked to the rest of the body parts like in face, arms and legs.
In some cases, it may become difficult to find the exact cause behind the condition, however there are various other possible causes. These may include:
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Nerve compression as a result of a tumor
- Certain vitamin deficiencies
- Certain medications
- Diseases such as trauma multiple sclerosis, stroke, AIDS and diabetes
Neuropathic pain presents with severe, long-lasting pain which is mainly due to the over-sensitization of the nervous system.
There are many different conditions related to this disease based on sensitivity which include:
- Dysesthesias, in which there is spontaneous burning pain.
- Hyperesthesia, hyperalgesia and allodynia, in which non-painful signals become painful.
- Hyperpathtia, in which unpleasant and excessive pain responses are seen.
Neuropathic pain may be diagnosed by counseling the patient suffering, as well as a physical examination, which can also help to find the source of the pain. Therefore, the best way to diagnose this disease is to go through the patients medical history and look at all the aspects of ongoing symptoms.
The treatment of neuropathic pain depends on the severity of the condition. In different cases, the people suffering from this disorder can be initially treated with analgesics belonging to different classes, such as NSAIDs, morphine, anticonvulsants and antidepressant drugs. It has been seen that in some conditions like diabetes, management of increasing pain by these analgesics may become difficult.
In cases where no improvement has been made with these treatments, patients may look into non-pharmacological techniques such as psychological counseling, patient education, electrical stimulation of the nerves by electrode implantation and acupuncture, which may significantly control the pain symptoms.