Nerve pain may have a variety of causes, among them peripheral neuropathy, Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy or Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, shingles and phantom limb pain.
Shingles affects about one in three people in the United States at some point in their lifetime. If you have had chickenpox, the virus is dormant in your body and can reactivate to cause shingles. Though it is also called Herpes Zoster, shingles is not caused by the same virus that causes genital herpes. Patients may first experience pain, itching or tingling where the rash will appear. A painful rash then develops, usually on one side of the body or face, possibly accompanied by fever, headache and nausea. Shingles can affect the eye and damage vision. The blisters usually scab over in a week to 10 days and clear up in two to four weeks.
Reflect Sympathetic Dystrophy — or Complex Regional Pain Syndrome — is a chronic condition of pain that usually affects arms, legs, hands or feet, often after an injury. Along with pain, there may be changes in skin color, temperature and swelling in the painful area. The cause of RSD/CRPS is believed to be connected to damage to or dysfunction of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and peripheral nervous system (nerves in the rest of the body linked to the central nervous system).
Fibromyalgia syndrome is a chronic rheumatic disorder. Sufferers may experience pain, tenderness, cognitive issues, sleep problems, headaches and other symptoms. Far more women than men are affected; 5 million American adults are estimated to have it. The cause is unclear, though it may be connected to a physically or emotionally traumatic event, repetitive injury or an illness, though sometimes the trigger isn’t obvious.
Phantom pain is sensation that seems as if it’s coming from a body part that has been amputated — usually a limb, but sometimes the breast, tongue, eye or sexual organ. About 60 to 80 percent of people with an amputation experience these feelings. The sensations, whether painful or not, originate in the spinal cord and brain. Phantom sensations include temperature changes, itching, tingling and pain of various kinds. It may even feel as if a missing limb is held at an uncomfortable angle and can be triggered by touching or stress.
Peripheral neuropathy results from damage to the peripheral nervous system, which sends information between the brain and spinal cord and the rest of the body. Sufferers may experience numbness, pricking sensations, weakness or hypersensitivity. The result may be paralysis, organ and gland dysfunction, muscle wasting, and problems with digestion, sweating, sexual function and urination. At worst, there may be breathing problems or organ failure. Symptoms may occur suddenly or can be experienced over years.