Hyperesthesia

Medically reviewed by Cynthia Cobb, DNP, APRN on January 29, 2018Written by Becky Young on January 29, 2018

Overview

Hyperesthesia is an increase in the sensitivity of any of your senses, such as sight, sound, touch, and smell. It can affect just one or all of the senses. Often, the heightening of an individual sense is referred to by a separate name. For example, increased sensitivity of touch is called tactile sensitivity, and increased sensitivity of sound is called auditory sensitivity.

Symptoms

The symptoms of hyperesthesia vary between individuals. They depend on which of your senses are affected and how severely. Some people with touch sensitivity can experience severe pain when their nerves are triggered. People with auditory sensitivity can hear painfully loud noises, when in truth no such noise has been made. People with smell sensitivity often report a wide range of smells, when in reality there is no such stimulus present. And some people will experience a combination of these symptoms. In severe cases, hyperesthesia can affect the nervous system, which can lead to an inflammation of the nerves and seizures.

Causes and risk factors

There is no singular cause of hyperesthesia. Many external stimuli are linked to the condition, and it’s also related to a number of other conditions.

Drinking too much coffee or alcohol can temporarily cause hyperesthesia by overstimulating the nervous system. Some experts believe this is due to the stimulation of the cerebrum and cortex region of the spinal cord. This causes increased sensitivity for a short time.

People who are experiencing skin rashes or shingles may also have tactile sensitivity. This is usually caused by a viral infection and will resolve in a few days on its own.

When the nerves are partially or completely impaired, this can also cause increased sensory stimulation. Damage to the nerves can occur through compression or injury.

People with a vitamin B-12 deficiency can also develop hyperesthesia.

It’s common for children with autism, fragile X syndrome, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to also develop hyperesthesia.

Treatment and management

The treatment for hyperesthesia centers on addressing the underlying cause. For example, if the hyperesthesia is caused by a vitamin B-12 deficiency, then B-12 supplements will be prescribed. After treating the underlying, cause most people will find that the symptoms of hyperesthesia are eliminated.

If there’s an underlying problem in the brain or spinal cord, this will be assessed and treated accordingly. Anticonvulsive medication can be given to those experiencing seizures. Antianxiety medication can be given to those experiencing fear and anxiety related to their condition.

If you’re experiencing an episode of hyperesthesia, lie down in a dark room free from stimuli. This should help the symptoms pass more quickly. Remain calm, do some deep breathing exercises, and know that symptoms will pass within a few hours.

Physiotherapy can be helpful for people who experience pain with their hyperesthesia.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been known to be effective in reducing the unpleasant responses caused by any stimulus.

It’s recommended that people with hyperesthesia eat a balanced diet that is rich in antioxidants.

Associated conditions

Hyperesthesia can also occur as a result of another health condition.

A link has been established between hyperesthesia and diabetes. This is because increased blood sugar levels can cause peripheral neuropathy and damage the nerves.

Many women with menopause also report a particular type of hyperesthesia called formication, in which they experience sensations on the skin such as tingling, crawling, or itching.

Outlook

Hyperesthesia can be unsettling, and it may cause feelings of fear and anxiety in those who live with it.

It’s important to remember that the condition is usually very manageable. Making certain lifestyle changes will ease your symptoms considerably:

  • Reduce your caffeine and alcohol intake, or eliminate them completely.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet.
  • Train yourself to stay calm by practicing yoga or meditating regularly.

When the symptoms of hyperesthesia occur, go and lie down in a quiet, darkened room and keep in mind that your symptoms will usually pass within a few hours.

Hyperesthesia can exist on its own or as a symptom of another related health condition. Whatever the case is for you, your doctors will diagnose the root cause so that it can be treated effectively.

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