When it comes to nerve pain, a diagnosis can be difficult to get. Chronic pain is an invisible illness that can be the result of many other conditions. Allodynia is a condition that causes pain from something that isn’t typically painful. It can be a symptom of conditions such as peripheral neuropathy, fibromyalgia and other chronic illnesses. In fact, allodynia occurs in 15 to 50 percent of patients with peripheral neuropathy. Let’s look at what allodynia is, its common causes and how to treat it.
What is allodynia?
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. There are three different types of allodynia:
Thermal: Thermal allodynia refers to when someone experiences 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: This type of allodynia occurs when there’s a slight movement across the skin, such as fabric touching skin.
Tactile: This 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 causes allodynia?
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.
There’s no concrete answer to what causes allodynia, but certain conditions can increase the risk. Peripheral neuropathy is one of the leading causes, along with:
Complex regional pain syndrome
The main symptom of allodynia is pain from non-painful stimuli. Symptoms will vary from person to person and can be mild to severe. Some people may experience burning sensations while others feel aches and pains. Other symptoms include:
Unfortunately, there isn’t a test to diagnose allodynia. A doctor will usually do a physical exam, review medical history and discuss symptoms with the patient. Since there are so many conditions that can cause chronic pain, they need to rule them out before giving an allodynia diagnosis. Some tests that may be used to diagnose include:
Standardized Evaluation of Pain (StEP)
Treatment of allodynia
While there is no cure, 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. Exercise, a healthy diet and plenty of rest can improve symptoms. Since allodynia may be a symptom of peripheral neuropathy or other conditions, the underlying condition will also be treated.
Another thing to consider when treating allodynia is mental health. Conditions that cause severe nerve pain can take a toll on the mental state and cause anxiety and depression. One of the best tactics for treating depression and anxiety is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
To sum it up, allodynia can be tricky to diagnose. Treatment methods typically include medications and lifestyle changes. If you have any signs of peripheral neuropathy or allodynia, contact your healthcare provider as soon as you can.
WinSanTor is a clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on the discovery and development of treatments for peripheral neuropathies. We believe in creating a solution that works and brings relief to millions who are struggling with this disease. Learn more about our company, our drug and subscribe to our newsletter.