Dysesthesia is a neurological symptom used as a general term to describe any type of abnormal sensation felt by an individual. It involves both painful and painless sensations, regardless of whether there is an actual stimulus triggering their appearance. Some of the most usual types of dysesthesia include burning on the skin, reduced sensitivity to pain or cold, or even finding it intolerable to wear clothing due to the discomfort caused by fabrics touching the skin.
It is important that patients realize that many different types of dysesthesia may be identified through a physician’s physical examination. While the list is long and may include unique sensory dysfunctions as well abnormal sensations, the most common types of dysesthesia include the following:
Visiting your physician is the first step toward an accurate diagnosis and successful treatment if you are experiencing sensations you consider abnormal. After taking a detailed medical history, your doctor will perform a thorough neurological exam. This will help to determine which tests may be needed to find the reason for your symptoms.
Some basic principles that patients will want to keep in mind during the exam are:
Some of the tests used by physicians in the neurological exam may seem unimportant or even humorous, but they are very important, so take the exam seriously.
The sensory neurological examination involves assessing the quality of the following senses:
Since the exam involves these senses, in order to evaluate them, you may be asked to place your hands in a bowl of hot or cold water in order to assess the level at which you can feel the temperature. You may also be asked whether you can feel the touch of a cotton pad on certain areas of the skin, both where you have been experiencing symptoms, as well as on problem-free areas. The sensitivity in problematic areas may then be compared to areas of the body where you are not having symptoms. Other sensory tests may also be performed.
There are many possible conditions leading to the experience of abnormal sensations. When the clinical examination reveals no serious disease, it can be quite challenging to determine their cause. Some possible reasons why a person is experiencing dysesthesias, even while having normal sensory tests, include conditions like myelopathy or vitamin B12 deficiency.
Dysesthesias that relate to an area innervated by a set of specific nerves can be a result of nerve damage. Conditions that can result in peripheral or central nerve damage that may lead to dysthesesias include:
Small strokes in the region of the thalamus, the area of the brain controlling sensory perception, can cause dysesthesias. The thalamic syndrome or Dejerine-Roussy Syndrome is a condition in which the stroke actually leads to a state of permanent, agonizing pain brought about any stimuli.
The duration of seizures varies, and they may be accompanied by involuntary movements and loss of consciousness.
Given the variety of conditions leading to the abnormal perception of stimuli, there is no specific test capable of diagnosing each and every one of them. The clinical examination, and the location of the sensation and its other characteristics, helps the physician decide which tests will be needed in order to proceed to a diagnosis. Depending on the cause of the symptoms and the underlying disease, if present, proper treatment will be administered.