Reasons for Heightened Tactile Response

Written by sidney edmonds
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Reasons for Heightened Tactile Response
When pain is perceived more intensely than the condition warrants, it's called allodynia. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Allodynia is the medical term for heightened tactile response, and it stems from miscommunication in the nervous system. Pain is felt more intensely than the condition warrants and can be caused by imbalances in brain chemicals or a malfunctioning nervous system. Allodynia can be pain brought on by a stimulus that does not typically cause pain for the average person and is thought to be caused by injured sensory nerves.

Cold Allodynia

Cold allodynia is a category of painful sensations that are brought on by cold stimulus. Simply reaching for frozen food items can cause severe pain such as burning for those who suffer this sensory disorder. Sensory nerves reside in small nerve fibres in the body and cannot be surgically removed; they form a network of tiny nerve fibres in the entire body, especially in the skin. Cold allodynia is often caused from surgeries or accidents where small sensory nerves have been damaged.

Touch Allodynia

Touch allodynia produces excruciating sensations from the simple touch of clothing or an object brushing against skin. This is a more severe forms of heightened tactile response; a light breeze can cause relentless pain in this form of the disorder. Touch allodynia can be caused from surgical procedures where nerves are permanently damaged. Phantom limb syndrome is a common disorder where a person feels pain even when the limb no longer exists. Touch allodynia can also be caused by neurotransmitter imbalances that trick the brain into feeling pain more intensely.

Location Allodynia

Location allodynia refers to painful sensations in specific locations. For example, a patient might have excruciating nerve pain in the elbow near the ulnar nerve when no damage or disease exists. This may be caused by a previous injury that damaged sensory nerves in that particular location. A slip-and-fall accident is one example of an occurrence that can contribute to location allodynia. Trigeminal neuralgia is a severe form of location allodynia that involves the trigeminal nerve in the face. Simple activities such as brushing teeth, chewing or lightly touching the face can produce severe painful reactions. Trigeminal neuralgia can be caused by pressure on the trigeminal nerve from a tumour or swollen blood vessel. Carpal tunnel or back surgery is also a common precipitator of location allodynia.

Central Pain Allodynia

Central pain allodynia patients have a difficult time localising the source of their pain, and response time can be delayed. This can hinder proper diagnosis and treatment. Central pain allodynia may be indicative of highly sensitised small nerve fibres that have been chemically altered to act in way that are dysfunctional. The perception of pain can be caused by faulty neurotransmitter levels and pain signalling.

Underlying Disease

Treatment for allodynia has been relatively ineffective as these pain conditions are non-responsive to most types of pain relievers. Neurological diseases such as complex regional pain syndrome seem to be caused by injury and have no underlying disease processes that can be addressed. Primary disorders that cause secondary allodynia include diabetes, nerve compression, vitamin B12 deficiency or prolapsed disks. Secondary allodynia can be cured by addressing the underlying cause. It is important to test for diseases and disorders that can be controlled, thereby alleviating allodynia altogether, before consulting a neurologist for brain and nerve disorders that are much more difficult to treat.

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