Symptoms and Signs of Neuropathic Pain (Nerve Pain)

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Medically Reviewed on 8/6/2021

Doctor's Notes on Neuropathic Pain (Nerve Pain)

Neuropathy is a nerve dysfunction that can lead to loss of sensation and in some patients, pain. Neuropathic pain is a chronic pain condition that results from nerve dysfunction. There are numerous conditions that can cause neuropathic pain, such as diabetes, HIV, kidney failure, injury to a peripheral nerve, disc herniation, alcoholism, tobacco use, some prescription drugs, vitamin deficiency (vitamin E, B1, B6, B12, niacin), repetitive stress injury (such as carpal tunnel syndrome), cancer, genetic factors, and shingles.

Neuropathic pain symptoms are chronic, and pain is often felt in the feet, though the legs and upper extremities may also be involved. The quality of pain may be unique for every person and may be described as burning, stabbing, prickling, tingling, or aching. Because the entire hands and feet are commonly affected, the symptoms are often described as being in a "stocking-glove distribution."

What Is the Treatment for Neuropathic Pain?

Neuropathic pain related to a particular condition such as diabetes is first treated by managing the underlying condition. For nerve pain in general, different types of medications and interventions have proven to be effective in helping to control symptoms. Standard pain control medications typically are not effective in treating neuropathic pain. Examples of possible treatment options include:

  • Anticonvulsant and antidepressant medications, which have both been shown to relieve nerve pain
  • Electrical stimulation of the affected nerves
  • Physical therapy
  • Massage therapy
  • Acupuncture

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.