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Curr Neuropharmacol. 2006 Jul;4(3):175-81.

Painful peripheral neuropathies.

Author information

  • 1Pain Medicine Center, Scientific Institute San Raffaele, Via Stamira D'Ancona 20, 20127 Milano, Italy. marchettini.paolo@hsr.it

Abstract

Peripheral neuropathies are a heterogeneous group of diseases affecting peripheral nerves. The causes are multiple: hereditary, metabolic, infectious, inflammatory, toxic, traumatic. The temporal profile includes acute, subacute and chronic conditions. The majority of peripheral neuropathies cause mainly muscle weakness and sensory loss, positive sensory symptoms and sometimes pain. When pain is present, however, it is usually extremely intense and among the most disabling symptoms for the patients. In addition, the neurological origin of the pain is often missed and patients receive inadequate or delayed specific treatment. Independently of the disease causing the peripheral nerve injury, pain originating from axonal pathology or ganglionopathy privileges neuropathies affecting smaller fibres, a clinical observation that points towards abnormal activity within nociceptive afferents as a main generator of pain. Natural activation of blood vessels or perineurial nociceptive network by pathology also causes intense pain. Pain of this kind, i.e. nerve trunk pain, is among the heralding symptoms of inflammatory or ischemic mononeuropathy and for its intensity represents itself a medical emergency. Neuropathic pain quality rekindles the psychophysical experience of peripheral nerves intraneural microstimulation i.e. a combination of large and small fibres sensation temporally distorted compared to physiological perception evoked by natural stimuli. Pins and needles, burning, cramping mixed with numbness, and tingling are the wording most used by patients. Nociceptive pain instead is most often described as aching, deep and dull. Good command of peripheral nerve anatomy and pathophysiology allows timely recognition of the different pain components and targeted treatment, selected according to intensity, type and temporal profile of the pain.

KEYWORDS:

Pain; diabetic neuropathy; hereditary neuropathy; neuropathic; paraneoplastic polyneuropathy; polyneuropathy; post herpetic neuralgia; small fibres neuropathy

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