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The Symptoms of Nerve Pain

Written by Mia Dacumos, MD · Nephrology · Makati Medical Center


Updated Jun 19, 2023

The Symptoms of Nerve Pain

Neuropathic or nerve pain is a type of pain that a lot of people misunderstand. One reason behind this is that nerve pain symptoms can vary from person to person, or even mimic symptoms of other conditions.

If left untreated, it can severely impact a person’s quality of life. This is why if you feel any nerve pain symptoms, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor.

What is Nerve Pain?

Nerve pain is defined as pain that’s caused by a lesion of the somatosensory nervous system1.  It can affect a person’s hands and feet, as well as other parts of the body. It is a chronic condition, lasting 6 months or more.

Symptoms

Nerve pain may feel different compared to other types of pain, such as muscle pain. The usual symptoms include the following2, 3:

  • Burning sensation – A throbbing sensation like the part of the body is being burned
  • Stabbing pain – A sharp, shooting, or stabbing sensation
  • Cold sensation – An icy, painful sensation
  • Pins and needles – A tingling sensation or tusok-tusok
  • Feeling of an electric shock – A feeling of being jolted or kinukuryente

Take note however that having the symptoms above doesn’t necessarily mean you have nerve pain. It is best to consult your doctor and avoid self-diagnosing.

Causes

Neuropathic pain is caused by neuropathy, or damage to the nerves. There are two types of neuropathy: peripheral neuropathy and central neuropathy. 

Peripheral neuropathy affects the peripheral nervous system or all of the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord. On the other hand, central neuropathy affects nerves in a person’s central nervous system, which is made up of the brain and spine.

Some of the causes of peripheral neuropathy are3:

  • Diabetes This chronic condition is when the body is unable to produce enough insulin or does not respond to insulin8. Complications from diabetes include heart disease, kidney disease, nerve damage, feet problems, oral, vision, hearing and mental health9. Patients suffering from diabetes may experience burning sensations in the hands and feet.
  • Cancer Cancer occurs when some of the body’s cells grow uncontrollably and then advances to other areas. This can happen to abnormal or damaged cells, thus forming lumps of tissue called tumors10. These tumors may press on nerves, causing neuropathy. Some cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation may also damage nerves.
  • HIV Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) attacks one’s own immune system. Though there is no known cure for HIV, there is treatment, which can prevent it from escalating to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)11. HIV may cause neuropathy. Medications to treat this condition may also damage peripheral nerves.
  • Trauma Physical trauma refers to serious injury to the body, such as when the body sustains a blow or is wounded12. Injuries from accidents or repetitive stress may result in the compression of the nerves.

Central neuropathic pain may be the result of4

  • Trauma to the brain or spinal cord These may result in damaged nerves.
  • A consequence of stroke Neuropathic pain related to a stroke may occur together with the stroke, or weeks to months afterwards.
  • Infectious diseases Certain diseases that cause inflammation in the brain and spinal cord may result in neuropathic pain. These include encephalitis and myelitis.

Complications of Nerve Pain

Nerve pain gets worse over time if left untreated. It’s common for people with untreated nerve pain to experience anxiety, depression, and lack of sleep due to prolonged duration of their symptoms5.

Diabetic ulcers in particular can be dangerous. Patients might not even be aware they have them because of the numbness brought about by nerve pain. Having diabetes also means that wounds don’t heal as quickly, so a patient can have an open sore which is prone to infection and gangrene.

Treatment

Treatment for nerve pain symptoms vary depending on the underlying cause. Some doctors might prescribe oral medications in order to help patients manage their pain6. Topical medications can also be prescribed by doctors depending on what type of neuropathic pain the patient has7.

Aside from medications, healthy lifestyle habits such as exercise, eating healthy foods, and maintaining a healthy weight may be recommended6. If the patient smokes, doctors will also suggest that they quit as soon as possible. This is because smoking can constrict blood vessels and make symptoms worse.

Patients with nerve pain symptoms should do their best to take their medication as prescribed by their doctor and maintain a healthy lifestyle. This way, they can better manage their neuropathy and prevent it from affecting their quality of life.

VIATRIS, INC.

22nd Floor Unit C&D, Menarco Tower, 32nd Street

Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City, Metro Manila

CNS-2022-0026

January 6 2023

Disclaimer

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Written by

Mia Dacumos, MD

Nephrology · Makati Medical Center


Updated Jun 19, 2023

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