Dysesthesia is pain or an uncomfortable sensation(s)
after being touched by an ordinary stimulus or even in
the absence of stimulation. Dysesthesia can be caused
by lesions (abnormal areas) of the sensory pathways in
the brain or spine. An example of a type of brain
damage that can lead to dysesthesia is thalamic
syndrome, in which damage is done to a sensory relay
station in the brain known as the thalamus.
A stroke, which is a burst artery (a type of blood vessel that carries blood away from the
heart) or a blocked artery in the brain can also lead to dysesthesia if it causes damage to
sensory pathways. After a stroke, dysesthesia can take months or even years to appear.
is a condition in which people develop multiple areas of abnormal patches in the brain
and/or spinal cord. Dysesthesia can also occur when people are withdrawing from drugs
and/or alcohol. The pain in dysesthesia, in addition to feelings of burning (sometimes
called Dante-esque pain [a reference to Dante’s Inferno]), tingling (pins and needles),
itching, wetness, shock sensations, or numbness usually occurs below the level of the
lesion in the spine.
Dysesthesia can be caused by lesions in the peripheral nervous system (nerves that are
outside the brain or spine). This can happen as a result of conditions such as diabetes
Diabetes mellitus is a complex, long-term disorder in which the body
is not able to effectively use a natural chemical called insulin.
Insulin's main job is to quickly absorb glucose (a type of sugar) from
the blood into cells for their energy needs and into the fat and liver
(a large organ that performs many chemical tasks) cells for storage.
An abnormal accumulation of glucose can damage the peripheral
nerves. As such, dysesthesia is considered a symptom of
neuropathy (nerve damage), which can also be seen in conditions
such as Lyme disease (a type of infectious disease caused by a
The pain is described by some as unbearable (e.g., like acid is running under the skin) and worsens with
heat and sensory changes. Dysesthesia is associated with allodynia, which is a condition in which
something that does not ordinarily cause pain actually does cause pain. An example would be
experiencing pain at the rubbing of cotton clothes against the skin. This makes it very difficult to sleep.
Because the pain can be so severe, depression, anxiety, and anger often occurs.
It is believed the dysesthesia can occur as a result of an acid buildup in the space between two nerve
endings (known as a synapse) and the space around smaller nerves (known as the perineural space).
Some ion channels will open to more acidic ions, which can contribute to the problem in dysesthesia when
there are not enough non-acidic ions to balance out the acidic ones. An ion is a type of electrically
charged particle. Dysesthesia comes from the Greek word "dys-" meaning "bad or difficult” and the Greek
word “aesthesis” meaning “feeling.” Put the words together and you get “bad feeling.”