What causes a burning sensation in the body?

Photo by Ryn Gargulinski

A burning sensation, either in a particular area of the body or over a wide range throughout, is not a pleasant thing. It can also be indicative of a number of underlying problems.

Depending on other symptoms that accompany the burning sensation, the cause could be everything from a reaction to severe trauma to an indication of vascular disease.


Someone still in shock or recovering from a severe trauma may experience a burning sensation. This occurs because nerve fibres are over-stimulated, still reacting to the traumatic event.

Nervous System

Problems with the nervous system may cause a burning sensation in the body. Nerves that relay messages and are connected to the spinal cord and brain can be damaged in a condition called peripheral neuropathy. It often causes a burning along with loss of muscle control, lack of sensations and pain. In other cases, a particular nerve is affected, in a condition called neuralgia. Other symptoms of neuralgia can include tender skin, numb feet, loss or lack of motor skills and paresthesias, or abnormal sensations.

Spinal Disease

Burning sensations are also common when someone is suffering from a disease of the spinal nerve roots called radiculothopy. If this is the case, the burning sensation is often accompanied by a tingling or numbness in the extremities and a literal pain in the butt.


Herpes, a sexually transmitted infection, is also known for causing a burning sensation. Both herpes simplex and herpes zoster are known for causing a burning sensation, along with a host of other conditions. Herpes simplex is often accompanied by pain or lumps in the genital area, swollen lymph nodes and a stinging sensation in the skin. Herpes zoster often also leads to a burning abdominal pain, loss of hearing in one ear, headaches and the inability to move the eyes. Both can produce open lesions and sores.

Vascular Condition

Peripheral vascular disease is another cause of a burning sensation. In this case, the blood vessels become narrowed and blood flow is restricted. This vascular condition usually affects the legs, but can also be found in the arms. In this case, the burning sensation may be accompanied by a blood pressure increase, swollen feet, blue lips and thick nails.

Other Conditions

Other conditions that may result in a burning sensation are whiplash, snake bites, stings from marine animals, leprosy, vitamin, calcium or hormone deficiencies, frostbite, skin conditions, ulcers, carpal tunnel syndrome and other conditions marked by nerve damage.