Neuropathic pain – also referred to as nerve pain, is a severe form of pain caused by inflammation, damage, irritation, or compression of the nerves. People with neuropathic pain often find it difficult to perform everyday tasks and may even develop depression and anxiety due to the chronic nature of the condition.
How to Tell If You Have Neuropathic Pain
Neuropathic pain affects people differently and can manifest in a number of ways. For some, it may feel like a sharp, shooting pain, while others may experience a constant throbbing or burning sensation.
Some people describe neuropathic pain as an electrical shock, while others say it feels like pins and needles. Below are some of the most common terms used to describe what neuropathic pain may feel like for different people:
- Pins and needles
In addition to the incessant and often debilitating pain, other commonly reported symptoms are:
- Muscle weakness
- Numbness or loss of sensation
- Impaired coordination
- Loss of balance
- Sleep disturbances
- Anxiety and depression
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is advisable to consult your primary healthcare provider or pain specialist for conclusive diagnosis and treatment.
Common Causes of Neuropathic Pain
It is not always easy to determine the exact cause of neuropathic pain, as there can be various underlying factors. These include:
- Autoimmune diseases
- Pinched nerves
- Spinal cord injuries
- Multiple sclerosis
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Parkinson’s disease
- Herniated discs
- Radiation therapy
- Some chemotherapy drugs
Complications of Neuropathic Pain
If left untreated, neuropathic pain can lead to several serious complications, as outlined below:
Depression and Anxiety
Living with chronic neuropathic pain can be extremely frustrating and take its toll on your emotional and psychological wellbeing, often leading to anxiety and depression. For some people, the constant pain can lead to hopelessness, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts.
Like any other form of pain, neuropathic pain can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. This can lead to daytime fatigue, further impairing your ability to function and live a productive life.
Impaired Cognitive Function
The chronic nature of neuropathic pain can also lead to impaired cognitive function and memory problems. Studies have shown that people with neuropathic pain often have difficulty concentrating, remembering things, and processing information. This can severely impact your overall quality of life.
Loss of Independence
The chronic and debilitating nature of neuropathic pain can often lead to a loss of independence. People with this condition may be unable to work, care for themselves, or perform simple everyday tasks. In very severe cases, the person may become utterly reliant on others for their care.
While some people with neuropathic pain tend to have an exaggerated response to pain, others may experience widespread numbness. This can lead to unseen injuries, as you may not feel pain when you injure yourself.
Loss of Balance and Mobility
Neuropathic pain can also lead to weakened muscles, loss of balance, and impaired coordination. The result is reduced or complete loss of mobility, which can further impact your ability to live a normal and independent life.
Treating Neuropathic Pain
Neuropathic pain can be extremely challenging to live with, but there are treatments that may be effective in reducing symptoms and improving quality of life.
It is worth noting that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating neuropathic pain. The best course of treatment will vary depending on the individual, the underlying cause of the pain, and the severity of the condition.
Some common treatments for neuropathic pain include medication, physical therapy, nerve blocks, ketamine therapy, surgery, and electrical nerve stimulation.