Neuropathic pain is a painful sensation that occurs due to damaged or poorly working nerves. The pain may be long-lasting.
This condition is caused by damaged nerve fibers that send pain signals to your brain. This happens even when there is no event to trigger the pain. For example, a person with neuropathic pain may have a feeling of pins and needles when putting on socks.
Nerve damage may be caused by:
Sometimes the cause of the nerve pain is unknown.
Certain conditions increase your risk of getting neuropathic pain, such as:
Other risk factors include:
Neuropathic pain may cause sensations of:
This pain may be constant or occur off and on during the day. The condition can get in the way of daily activities, including sleep. In some cases, even the touch of a bed sheet can cause pain.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
You may be referred to a neurologist. This is a doctor who specializes in disorders of the nervous system. This doctor will do a neurological exam and other tests.
Depending on your condition, you may also be referred to a pain specialist who can help you manage your pain.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:
There are a number of medications that are effective for treating neuropathic pain. Some of these, like antidepressants, were created to treat other conditions. They have also been found to be useful for treating nerve pain.
Examples of medications used to treat symptoms of peripheral neuropathy include:
It may take a while for your doctor to find the right medication for you. You may need to take a combination of medications for pain relief.
Your doctor may advise nerve decompression. If pressure on the nerve is causing pain, surgery can relieve it. This can help decrease the pain or make it go away.
If you are not getting relief from other treatments, your doctor may recommend:
American Chronic Pain Association
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Canadian Diabetes Association
Canadian Pain Coalition
Botez SA, Herrmann DN. Sensory neuropathies, from symptoms to treatment. Curr Opin Neurol. 2010;23(5):502-508.
Rezania K, et al. Impaired glucose tolerance and metabolic syndrome in idiopathic polyneuropathy: the role of pain and depression. Med Hypotheses. 2011;76:538-42.
Types of neuropathic pain. The Neuropathy Association website. Available at: http://www.neuropathy.org/site/News2?news_iv_ctrl=-1&page=NewsArticle&id=7775. Accessed July 30, 2013.
Understanding nerve pain. American Chronic Pain Association website. Available at: http://www.theacpa.org/uploads/Final_Brochure.pdf. Published 2004. Accessed July 30, 2013.
Last reviewed July 2013 by Rimas Lukas, MD; Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.