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Monday, March 12, 2018

MS Altered sensations

In multiple sclerosis, it is common to experience uncomfortable, altered sensations, such as pins and needles, burning or crawling feelings, numbness or tightness. Although the feelings seem to be in the skin, they are actually due to damage caused by MS which disrupts messages passing along nerves in the central nervous system.
These feelings are a type of nerve (neuropathic) pain and may be classified as dysaesthesia, paraesthesia or allodynia by health professionals.

What are altered sensations?

Altered sensations can occur in any part of the body, most commonly in the face, body, arms or legs, but may also include the genital area in both men and women. It may occur on just one side of the body or on both sides.
There are many ways that people with multiple sclerosis describe altered sensations including:
  • Burning
  • Tingling
  • Pins and needles
  • Crawling
  • Numbness
  • Prickling
  • Sensitive skin
  • Wetness
  • Stabbing
  • Electric shock
  • Itching
  • Trickling

Although altered sensations in MS may feel itchy, there is no rash or sign of skin irritation unless you’ve been tempted to scratch the itchiness.
Health professionals may ask you whether:
  • there is a lack of sensation, as in numbness, or a gain of new sensation, for example a burning feeling
  • the altered sensation is painful or not
  • the feeling is set off by touch, heat or other triggers or just happens for no obvious reason.
Your altered sensations may be classed as:
  • Allodynia where something, like a light touch, feels painful even though it shouldn’t cause pain
  • Paraesthesia which is an annoying unusual sensations, like tingling or numbness, which may be triggered or just happen spontaneously
  • Dysaesthesia, which is a more intense, sometimes painful, feeling which happens spontaneously
  • Sensory symptoms, a more general term for altered sensations.

What causes altered sensations?

Although it feels like something is going on in the skin, the sensations are really due to damage caused by MS to the nerves in the brain and spinal cord. This damage interferes with the normal transmission of messages to the brain. The brain can’t interpret the signals it is receiving as it is outside its experience. To deal with this, it tries to relate it to something the body has experienced before such as itching or burning. Alternatively, the brain may relate it to some other sensation that it can imagine like having insects crawling all over you.


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