It is an unusual sensitivity of the skin or of a specific sense to a variety of stimuli. According to medical practitioners, it is an odd disorder since a small innocuous stimulus can generate an abnormal sensation of pain.
As aforementioned, in cutaneous hyperesthesia, the skin reacts overtly to any type of stimuli causing an increase in pain and tenderness. The condition can manifest into extreme touch sensitivity resulting in tactile hyperesthesia. A significant portion of the affected population show severe intolerance to sound. In this instance, the disorder is referred to as “auditory hyperesthesia”. The condition also encompasses increased susceptibility to smell, taste and vision. Affected patients normally exhibit bizarre behavior and prefer lying quietly in an isolated place without any disturbance.
Regular consumption of alcohol or caffeine can stimulate the central nervous system in an abnormal manner to cause this condition. Excessive stimulation of the nerves cannot be always attributed to an external stimulus. Some reports have suggested that an overstimulation of the cerebrum, which is the largest part of the brain controlling movement and sensation, can trigger the condition, but for a short span of time. Oversensitivity to touch has been associated with shingles that causes painful skin rash with blisters due to varicella zoster virus. Another neurologic illness called peripheral neuropathy can completely damage the nerves of the peripheral nervous system either due to diabetes or trauma. Likewise, in radiculopathy-affected patients one or more nerves are totally impaired and lead to sensory changes. The unusual pain can increase in the presence of lesions that develop on the posterior thalamus. Tactile sensitivity may even appear as a common symptom in patients suffering from autism, fragile X syndrome, or attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder.
There is no standard technique to diagnose this condition. However, the fundamental cause of nerve pain can be determined by conducting a neurological exam and finding out any past cases of toxin exposure or alcohol abuse. Blood test would be needed to check the levels of vitamins and glucose. Thalamic tumors can be detected with the help of imaging tests. Nerve conduction studies are commonly used to evaluate the function of the nervous system.
When the condition occurs, the patient must be shifted to a cool, dark, calm place to resolve it. Performing certain aerobic breathing exercises can provide adequate oxygen to the body and remove carbon dioxide as well as other causative irritants. Physiotherapy can also reduce the frequency of adverse responses to the stimulus. Chronic cases can only be dealt by treating the underlying causal ailments using anxiolytics, analgesics, anti-convulsants, or vitamin B12 supplements. Occupational therapy is more suitable for patients with tactile hyperesthesia that mainly comprises of productive or meaningful activities to ensure spontaneous recovery. A well-balanced diet works as an adjunct to treat extreme sensitivity.
The condition can affect different species of cats, including Himalayan, Siamese, Abyssinian and Burmese, and is commonly called feline hyperesthesia syndrome. Affected animals show aggressive behavior such as chasing or biting the tail. Some of the other clinical signs include:
Twitching or rolling of the skin
Pouncing on imaginary objects
Compulsive scratching behavior
Licking, chewing, or plucking body hair
Many veterinary neuroscientists feel that this disease is a typical form of epilepsy and can occur at any age. Administration of anti-anxiety drugs such as sedatives and serotonin-specific reuptake inhibitors can assuage the neuropathic pain.
Hyperesthesia is generally a minor problem and does not seem to progress. Post treatment, most patients show early signs of recovery without any behavioral manifestations related to the disorder. Appropriate sensory stimulation and regular interactions can help in reducing stress.