Allodynia and hyperalgesia are conditions associated with neuropathy pain. In fact, research shows that both conditions are observed in 15-20% of patients suffering from neuropathic pain. When it comes to nerve pain, a diagnosis can be difficult to get. How are the two conditions different? Read more to find out.
Peripheral neuropathy is a condition marked by the degeneration of peripheral sensory nerves that results from a complication of a certain disease or injury. Symptoms vary from patient to patient and include: tingling, numbness, hypersensitivity and intense, jarring pain in the extremities. While treatable, dealing with these conditions can be unpleasant, and it’s important to contact your doctor if you’re experiencing any symptoms. Let’s learn about allodynia vs. hyperalgesia and how to treat it.
What’s the difference between allodynia and hyperalgesia?
To start, allodynia is defined as pain from a stimulus that wouldn’t normally provoke pain. People who experience nerve pain are very sensitive to touch. For example, someone with this condition could feel pain just by putting on a pair of pants.
Hyperalgesia, on the other hand, is a condition that causes extreme sensitivity to pain. This can be due to nerve damage or other factors that can disrupt how your body processes pain. It happens during a situation when you would normally feel pain, but the pain is much more intense than it should be.
What causes allodynia and hyperalgesia?
When your nervous system is working properly, the nerves send messages between the brain, skin muscles and organs. The nerves tell your body when and when not to feel pain. When you have allodynia, the nervous system isn’t working the way it’s supposed to. Peripheral neuropathy is a leading cause of allodynia, along with migraines, fibromyalgia, postherpetic neuralgia, diabetes and complex regional pain syndrome.
On the contrary, hyperalgesia is caused by damaged pain receptors in our body. These receptors can send signals through the body that increase our pain response. Surgery, inflammation, chemotherapy and increased use of opioids are among the causes of hyperalgesia.
What are the different types of allodynia?
There are three different types of allodynia:
- Thermal: Thermal allodynia refers to pain from mild hot or cold temperatures. While someone may feel discomfort when it’s freezing or too hot, someone with allodynia feels pain when there’s a slight change in the temperature.
- Mechanical: Pain from mechanical allodynia occurs when there’s a slight movement across the skin, such as fabric touching skin.
- Tactile: Pain from tactile allodynia occurs when light pressure is applied to the skin and is also referred to as static allodynia. Someone tapping you on the shoulder doesn’t usually cause pain. Someone with tactile allodynia would find it painful.
What are the different types of hyperalgesia?
There are two types of hyperalgesia:
- Injury-induced hyperalgesia
Increased pain occurs with injury-induced hyperalgesia due to a tissue injury or nerve damage. There are two different types:
- Primary – Intense pain around the injury
- Secondary- Pain spreads from the injury to other areas
- Opioid-induced hyperalgesia
Increased pain sensitivity occurs with opioid-induced hyperalgesia after taking opioids such as heroin, morphine or fentanyl. They are typically used to relieve pain, but with a high enough dose, they can reverse the effect and make the pain worse.
What are the available treatments for allodynia and hyperalgesia?
Treatment for hyperalgesia can include:
- Nerve block
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
- Nerve ablations
- Oral pills
- IV meds
- Over-the-counter drugs, like Tylenol and NSAIDs, can be used to treat hyperalgesia as well as prescriptions, such as steroids and antidepressants.
While there is no cure for allodynia, there are treatment methods to help reduce symptoms. Treatment will typically focus on decreasing pain with lifestyle changes and medications that target the nerves.
The most common medication used to treat allodynia is Pregabalin. This medicine is used to treat nerve pain from conditions like fibromyalgia and shingles. Topical medications can also be used to alleviate pain.
Lifestyle changes are also important when treating allodynia and nerve pain.
The bottom line
To sum it up, chronic pain is an invisible illness that can be the result of many other conditions. Both allodynia and hyperalgesia are associated with nerve pain and damage that can be difficult to diagnose. If you have any signs of peripheral neuropathy, allodynia or hyperalgesia, contact your healthcare provider as soon as you can.
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- “Allodynia and hyperalgesia in neuropathic pain: clinical manifestations and mechanisms”. The Lancet
- “Types of Peripheral Neuropathies”. WinSanTor
- “Hyperalgesia: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and More”. WebMD
- “What is Allodynia?”. WinSanTor
- “What is Hyperalgesia?”. WinSanTor