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Dysesthesia - Treatment, Symptoms, Types, Causes

Updated on January 10, 2014

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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    • profile image

      Jerry Barnes 13 months ago

      I'm a Vietnam Nam veteran who was exposed to agent orange. While still in VN I developed a form of dermatitis and have had it ever since. It is characterized by puss like blisters that arise on scalp that burn and itch. They never burst but are extremely sensitive to touch. Sometimes they last for a month or longer and scalp feels like fire. The area affected is from the crown of my head downward to where my hair ends. The rounded area behind each ear is worst. I have taken an antibiotic (minocin) intermittently for years. It gives relief about three weeks into 30 day script, only to have it flare up about a week or so after the dosage ends.

      I am hoping to find someone who has conquered this problem. I have been to many dermatologists with no success. One last point, a few years ago I began having neuropathy in both feet and ankles. It was diagnosed as idiopathic (meaning they don't know cause). If anyone would like to share info about this issue I can be reached at

    • profile image

      Shafeek Zubair 14 months ago

      So Dr Mcgibbon has discharged me from Dermatology Department & referred to Pain Management department. There are 04 types of were mentioned here. I think the type of Dysesthesia I am facing is the 04th one. (Burning dysesthesia )

      I am suffering much with the burning in my whole body. I have been showering in cold water & can not wear the jacket even this winter because of burning.

      I hope that the dysesthesia treatment would helps me greatly. Every people are kindly requested to pray for me to recover from this critical illness.

    • profile image

      Shafeek Zubair 14 months ago

      I was suffering last 08 years with the burning my whole body (especially in the joins & the holes of the body ) till last month. I met many Dermatologists. They haven't any answer for the disease I faced. More then 30 times I went to the hospitals & met many Consultants Dermatologists. But I was disappointed.

      Then I was referred last month to Dr David Mcgibbon in Guys & St Thomas Hospital (London Bridge) He was listening carefully & writing everything I was telling him regarding my symptoms about 50 minutes. this was last month ( December 06th 2016) the last appointment was with Dr Mcgibbon 03rd of Feb 2017. he guess that I may be effected by Dysesthesia.

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      Tiffany 3 years ago

      I had Gout for 5 years. I started tnikag a green drink a year ago made by Garden of Life called Perfect Food. I take one scoop per day with a glass of water for breakfast and I haven't had even the slightest hint of gout since. I tried everything before that, including meds and cherry juice and nothing worked. The alkaline neutralizes the acid that causes gout. Not only did it get rid of my gout but it helps with everything else. It costs about $40 for a 600 gram tub online.

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      Dr Val 3 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?