What Is Hypoesthesia?
Hypoesthesia is a term used to define a condition where one’s sense of touch is altered. There are several types of hypoesthesia. Some people experience only numbness or tingling sensations while others have no sensation at all. A few people experience both kinds of hypoesthesia simultaneously (i.e., they may feel cold and hot, dry and wet).
The word “hypo” means under, so hypoesthesia refers to a condition where one feels like their body parts are not connected properly. For example, if someone has phantom limb pain due to damage to their sensory nerves, then they might feel like their arm or leg is disconnected from the rest of the body.
Some people with hypoesthesia have experienced it since birth, but others develop it later in life. It is possible to lose your ability to feel things without any warning symptoms. Sometimes people don’t even realize they are missing something until they experience other problems such as migraines or chronic pain. Other times people do notice that something is wrong and seek medical attention when they suddenly begin losing feeling in certain areas of their bodies.
Diagnosing this condition can be difficult since there are several conditions that cause similar sensations. It is important to have an accurate diagnosis before beginning any treatment because some drugs used to treat other conditions can make hypoesthesia worse.
Paresthesia is a condition where one experiences an abnormal sensation such as tingling, burning, or prickling. These sensations are sometimes described as a lightning bolt moving through the skin or an itch that one cannot reach. Normally, paresthesia affects an entire limb. Sometimes the whole limb is numb, but there are other times when the feeling (or lack of feeling) is localized to a specific area.
The difference between hypoesthesia and paresthesia is that paresthesia only affects sensation while hypoesthesia can affect both sensation and movement. Patients suffering from paresthesia may not have any other symptoms at all.
In the case of sensory symptoms, some people may experience paralysis on one side of their body. This paralysis is not due to any damage to the nerves or muscles, but rather the brain’s inability to sense what is happening in that limb. It is common for people with this condition to fall over while walking since they are not getting feedback that would let them know which way is up.
There are also cases when people cannot recognize an itch or pain. The brain is unable to interpret those sensations, so it is possible to touch the skin and have the person feel nothing at all. There have even been instances where people have failed to recognize hot or cold because their brains cannot process that information.
There are three categories of causes for hypoesthesia: mechanical, metabolic, and neurological. In some cases, a patient will have several causes for their hypoesthesia.
In some cases, damage to the peripheral nerves causes hypoesthesia. The peripheral nerves are those that connect directly to the brain and not the spinal cord. This damage can be due to physical trauma such as an automobile accident or a fall, but it usually is caused by a disease or condition that affects the nerves. In some cases, the patient may have been born with a weak nervous system, which makes them more susceptible to this problem.
A small stroke can cause hypoesthesia. In fact, a series of small strokes is more likely to cause this condition than a single, larger one. This results in the inability of the muscles, glands, and senses to communicate with the brain. These strokes can be caused by hypertension or atherosclerosis and may be difficult to detect.
Multiple sclerosis and spinal cord tumors can also cause hypoesthesia. In these cases, the body has attacked itself in some way and the hypoesthesia is only one of several symptoms. In some cases, hypoesthesia is a precursor to other symptoms that will show up later.
Hypoesthesia can also be caused by tumors on the spinal cord or brain. These tumors do not always cause other symptoms, but in some cases they do.
Dystonia is a condition where the muscles contract and keep the limbs in a fixed position. In many cases, patients will experience dystonia in one part of their body and then it will spread to other parts.
When the hypoesthesia is due to a disease process, there is no one cause. Multiple things can cause damage to the central and peripheral nervous system including inflammation, autoimmune disorders, and genetics.
Patients who have experienced hypoesthesia for a long period of time may experience other conditions including delusions and hallucinations. These are all caused by the damaged communication between the brain and body.
The prognosis of hypoesthesia depends on what is causing it. If the cause of the hypoesthesia is a disease process, such as multiple sclerosis, the prognosis is not good. Most people with this disease do not live a long life.
If hypoesthesia is caused by spinal cord or brain damage, which is much more common, patients can usually lead fairly normal lives with minor adjustments.
Treatment will depend on the cause. Some patients will simply need to change their activities to suit their condition. If the hypoesthesia is caused by a disease, such as multiple sclerosis, the symptoms may worsen over time.
The main treatment for hypoesthesia is drugs. The drugs treat the disease process that is causing the hypoesthesia or they may be specific to the damaged nerves. Treatment may include pain medication, if the pain is severe, and antidepressants. As always, consult your physician before taking any medications.
Surgery may be required if there is a tumor compressing the spinal cord or brain.
As of now, there is no cure for hypoesthesia, but it can be treated and managed. Most patients do not suffer from major complications due to their condition.
Hypoesthesia is not a common symptom and it can have a number of causes. It is always important to see a physician to determine the cause of any symptoms you are having.
Living with hypoesthesia does not have to be a difficult process. With medical treatment and the right mindset, you can live a long and happy life.
Sources & references used in this article:
Corneal hypoesthesia by XY Martin, AB Safran – Survey of ophthalmology, 1988 – Elsevier
Dermal hypoesthesia after total knee arthroplasty by DF Johnson, DTT Love, BRT Love… – AMERICAN JOURNAL …, 2000 – researchgate.net
Secondary tactile hypoesthesia: a novel type of pain-induced somatosensory plasticity in human subjects by W Magerl, RD Treede – Neuroscience letters, 2004 – Elsevier
Patterns of quantitative sensation testing of hypoesthesia and hyperalgesia are predictive of diabetic polyneuropathy: a study of three cohorts. Nerve growth factor … by PJ Dyck, TS Larson, PC O’Brien, JA Velosa – Diabetes Care, 2000 – Am Diabetes Assoc
Plantar hypoesthesia alters time-to-boundary measures of postural control by PO McKeon, JAY Hertel – Somatosensory & Motor Research, 2007 – Taylor & Francis
Postoperative hypoesthesia and pain: qualitative assessment after open and laparoscopic inguinal hernia repair by G Beldi, N Haupt, R Ipaktchi, M Wagner, D Candinas – Surgical endoscopy, 2008 – Springer