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Touch-sensitive Skin

Chandramita Bora Feb 8, 2019
Touch-sensitive skin refers to an exaggerated and painful response to stimulus, like touch, which otherwise does not provoke pain. The following write-up elucidates some of the main causes of skin hypersensitivity and the treatment options for the same.
The term 'allodynia' refers to the pain that is produced by usually non-painful stimuli. When a person is affected by this condition, he/she experiences painful, tingling or pricking sensation, even when the skin is touched gently. Such exaggerated skin sensitivity is usually associated with neuropathies or pathologies of the peripheral nerves.

Types of Allodynia

If the pain is felt when skin is touched, it is called tactile or mechanical allodynia. Apart from tactile allodynia, there are three other types of allodynia. These include:
  • Static mechanical allodynia (pain felt due to light touch or pressure)
  • Dynamic mechanical allodynia (pain felt due to brushing)
  • Thermal allodynia (pain felt due to hot or cold stimuli)

Causes

A painful sensation felt on touching the skin can be a sign of several health conditions. These include:
  • Most often, peripheral neuropathy occurs when the nerves of the peripheral nervous system get damaged. It can cause the skin to become so sensitive that one can experience intense pain and pricking or a tingling sensation, even when the skin is touched gently.
  • Diabetic neuropathy, which is a complication of diabetes, could also be a contributory factor.
  • Fibromyalgia, the condition which is associated with heightened painful response to pressure, can also cause allodynia.
  • Sometimes, excessively touch-sensitive skin can be a result of postherpetic neuralgia, which refers to nerve pain that may occur as a complication of shingles.
Shingles is caused by the reactivation of Varicella zoster virus, which causes chickenpox. The area of the skin that is affected by rash or skin lesions caused by shingles can remain sensitive for several days, even after they disappear. The virus can lay dormant in the body and reactivate when the immune system is weakened due to some health condition(s).
  • Tactile defensiveness is a neurological disorder that is caused by a neurological defect in the midbrain, which is concerned with evaluating and filtering different types of stimuli. The result of such a defect is the exaggerated painful response to stimuli like touch and gentle pressure.
  • Apart from these, certain other conditions can also render touch-sensitive and painful skin, and they are chronic fatigue syndrome, deficiency of vitamin B1, B2, B6 and B7 and migraine.

Treatment

Treatment for this kind of skin requires proper evaluation of the underlying causes. Once the factors responsible for the condition are ascertained, physicians can design an appropriate treatment plan to alleviate the condition.
Commonly used drugs and medications are:
  • Tramadol
  • Lidocaine
  • Mexiletine
  • Ketamine
  • Morphine
  • Adenosine
  • Venlafaxine
  • Alfentanil
Even anti-inflammatory drugs like naproxen can be used to prevent over sensitization of the central nervous system in order to treat allodynia. Sometimes, one can also get relief by using topical pain relievers such as capsaicin and aspercreme creams.
Touch-sensitive skin is an annoying and uncomfortable experience for any individual, and can become unbearable at times. Besides, it can be an indicator of some serious health condition(s) as well. Therefore, any abnormal or unusual sensitivity of skin in response to non-painful stimuli should be reported to an expert medical practitioner at the earliest.
Disclaimer: This is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.