Central Pain Syndrome

Central pain syndrome is a neurological disorder that affects the central nervous system. It occurs as a result of damage to parts of the central nervous system. Once developed central pain syndrome usually remains a lifelong condition.

Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

What Causes Central Pain Syndrome?

Damage to the central nervous system can occur for a variety of reasons, including injury and disease. Conditions that can cause central pain syndrome include multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, neurofibromatosis and stroke. Other causes of central pain syndrome include epilepsy and trauma to the brain and spinal cord. Additionally, bacterial or viral infections, as well as, Vitamin B12 deficiencies have also been known to cause central pain syndrome. The condition may also occur as a result of limb amputations or due to brain tumors. Also, surgery performed on the brain or spine may also lead to the development of the condition. The ways that damage to the central nervous system may occur are numerous, thus there are many additional causes of central pain syndrome. 

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Symptoms

The length of time for the onset of the condition varies. Symptoms of central pain syndrome may come on rather suddenly and can be seen within a day of injury to the central nervous system. While some people experience symptoms within days others may develop the condition months or even a year or more after the central nervous system has become damaged. The most commonly affected body parts are the hands and the feet. However, the face may also be affected by the condition, and in some cases, symptoms appear over a large area of the body.

For some, central pain syndrome causes various types of pain, with the most common type described as a persistent burning sensation. Others may experience brief episodes of sharp pain. Other symptoms include itching and loss of sensation within the affected area. Also, muscle weakness, jerky or slow movements and numbness are symptoms of the condition.

Hypersensitivity may also be experienced, as some may find that their symptoms are aggravated by touch, certain activities and stress. For some individuals changes in temperature may affect their symptoms, with colder temperatures more likely to increase the symptoms of central pain syndrome. Due to hypersensitivity, some people may experience extreme pain from innocuous everyday items and situations, including the feel of the weight of a blanket, an outdoor breeze and even clothing.

Some people with central pain syndrome may experience severe and constant symptoms that affect their quality of life.

Treatments & Procedures

Although, non-steroid anti-inflammatories and opioids usually do not provide effective relief from symptoms, medications such as antidepressants and anticonvulsants are effective treatments for some of those affected by central pain syndrome. Anticonvulsants that are commonly tried to treat the condition include gabapentin, and lamotrigine.  Likewise, antidepressants like amitriptyline, duloxetine and nortriptyline help to control symptoms. Lidocaine a type of local anesthetic has shown to provide relief from symptoms for some people.

Surgical options do exist for those unable to find relief from medications. One such option is motor cortex stimulation. With this option an implanted pulse generator regularly sends electrical pulses to the brain through electrodes placed on the dura mater which covers the brain.  Another surgical option is deep brain stimulation; although, this option is not commonly used to treat central pain syndrome. Deep brain stimulation is done by placing one or two wires in locations deep inside the brain in areas that control pain signals. Brain mapping is used to find the best placement of the wires and once again an implanted pulse generator is used to send electrical pulses to the brain to control symptoms.

Other non-surgical treatment options that may provide relief from symptoms include those that reduce stress.

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