Dysesthesia - Treatment, Symptoms, Types, Causes

What is Dysesthesia?

This is a neurological condition that is characterized by a distortion of the sense of touch. Basically it causes all touch to feel unpleasant. It comes from the Greek word dys which means "not-normal" and aesthesis which means "abnormal sensation". It can include sensations in any tissues of your body but most often is seen in your skin, scalp, legs, or mouth.


There are four types of dysesthesia which are classified as to the type of sensation it provokes and where it is in your body.

  • Cutaneous dysesthesia - this type is characterized by the discomfort of pain from touch to your skin by normal stimuli. This even includes your clothes. It can range from a tingling that is mild to pain that can be blunt and incapacitating.
  • Scalp dysesthesia - this type is characterized by burning or pain sensations under or on the cranial skin surface. This can also be present as excessive itching of your scalp.
  • Occlusal dysesthesia - this type is characterized by the feeling of a biting sensation in the absence of any apparent damage to your maxillofacial or oral tissues or structures. It is also referred to as phantom bite. This will usually happen in people who have had recent dental surgery.
  • Burning dysesthesia - this type is characterized by a person feeling like the area that is affected is on fire.

Sometimes when you have this medical condition you may feel like you are being stabbed or frozen. You will often find dysesthesia in people who are suffering from multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and neuropathy.


The symptoms that a person may have depend on the type of dysesthesia they have. People have described it as feeling like having acid under their skin. There can be feelings of pain or discomfort and feeling uncomfortable. The pain can range from mild to excruciating. You may also feel as if there is something under your skin. For scalp dysesthesia there is excessive itching. The feeling of being on fire with burning dysesthesia.


There are many different reasons as to what can cause dysesthesia but it develops because a person has lesions, which are an abnormal or damaged area of tissue, somewhere in your nervous system. It can involve your sensory pathways, your peripheral nerves, or sensory nerves. For example, if you were to have an unpleasant sensation in your hand it could be a problem with the nerves that connect your hand to your brain, part of the brain that processes the sensations from your hand, or with the nerves in your hand. In all cases of dysesthesia you will experience an unpleasant sensation when you are exposed to touch even if the sensations are not actually happening.

Other causes may include:

  • It could be a symptom of Guillaian-Barre syndrome which is a disorder of your peripheral nervous system
  • It can be a symptom of nerve damage caused by Lyme Disease which is a tick-borne disease.
  • A symptom of withdrawal from drugs or alcohol
  • Being touched or brushed against by a pet, person, or even clothes.
  • HIV
  • Shingles
  • Certain medications


What treatment the physician uses will depend on where these sensory signals are getting scrambled and causing this abnormal sense of touch. Sometimes you will have to adjust the medications and treatment options until you find something that works. It may be hard to find a physician to help with pain management because the physician does not believe that you are in pain because of the lack of symptoms other than discomfort and pain.

Some of the treatments that may be used include:

  • Having an electrical stimulation of the nerve to stop the scrambled signal
  • Having the nerve that is causing this severed called neurotomy.
  • Managing the pain and keeping you comfortable with medication
  • Having daily oral muscle physical therapy
  • Taking antidepressants to help with occlusal dysesthesia or scalp dysesthesia
  • If you have occlusal dysesthesia you should avoid the removal or replacement of all dental work.
  • If it is caused by diabetes you would need to get your blood sugar under control.

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Comments 2 comments

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medsimple 2 years ago

I was just wondering: Which part of the spinal cord does dysesthesias frequently affect? Or does it affect the centre in the brain necessary for controlling sensory impulses?

Tiffany 21 months ago

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