What Is Hyperesthesia?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 03 November 2014
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Hyperesthesia is a condition in which someone becomes highly sensitized to sensory stimuli. Individuals with hyperesthesia may experience sensations with no input, and may find sensory stimulation extremely intense and sometimes almost unbearable. This condition is quite rare, and in addition to being seen in humans, it is also seen in cats and dogs. In animals, hyperesthesia can cause behavioral problems, including biting, snapping, and self mutilation.

The causes of hyperesthesia are not well understood. It is sometimes associated with neurological changes and brain damage, as might occur when someone has a brain tumor, a degenerative neurological condition, or a neuropathy. Tactile hyperesthesia, involving extreme sensitivity of the skin, is often linked with neuropathies and chronic neurological conditions.

People can also experience oversensitization to hearing, smell, vision, and taste in addition to touch. In some cases, the condition appears to be triggered by overstimulation of the area of the brain involved in sensation, in which case the hyperesthesia should resolve within a few hours. While the patient is experiencing symptoms, it may help to lie in a cool, quiet, dark place. Some patients find breathing exercises and massage helpful, while others prefer to simply lie quietly while they recover.

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If the hyperesthesia appears to be caused by a chronic problem, a neurologist can conduct an examination to learn more about the specifics and to look for possible causes. Medications such as analgesics to dull sensation, anti-seizure medications, and anti-anxiety drugs can sometimes help patients with this condition. These drugs can reduce the intensity of the sensations, and keep the patient more comfortable.

When someone experiences hyperesthesia, it is a good idea to make an appointment with a neurologist for an interview and exam. Some serious conditions can present in the form of hyperesthesia in the early stages, and the prognosis for the patient will improve substantially if treatment is provided as soon as possible.

In animals, hyperesthesia often manifests in the form of increased sensitivity of the skin. The skin may ripple or twitch, especially when touched, and the animal may react intensely to being handled or touched. Some animals bite, lick, or scratch at their own skin, leading to the development of bald spots or ulceration, and the animal may snap, bark, or hiss when touched. A veterinarian can evaluate the animal and provide treatment recommendations which will address the condition. During treatment, the animal may need to wear an e-collar to prevent biting and licking.

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anon295316
Post 5

I have this hyperesthesia with visual abstract effects. Everything's like an LSD trip voyage.

I was a drugs abuser, but now I don't use anything except cigarettes. Normally during this attack (happening in the late night or early morning if I haven't slept) I have also noise disturbances, like a change in the ambient sound in words, normally against myself.

I use Haldol 3 mg /day and am better but I am afraid of having another new attack. It is important to have a good diet, vitamins, magnesium, a little bit of sport, drink a lot of water, smoke less and don't use drugs, not even cannabis! I wish to help somebody!

sweetPeas
Post 4

@Esther11 - I understand what you are talking about. My granddaughter has experienced hyperesthesia or something very similar. There are lots of food items that she won't eat. The texture and taste of certain foods must be magnified in her mouth many times.

She tries to eat new foods, but just can't get them past her tongue. Examples are, most vegetables, raisins, chocolate, and meat.

This child is also very sensitive to being in a room with lots of different noises going on. She gets overwhelmed and hyper. With therapy and medication, she, also, is improving as she gets older.

Esther11
Post 3

My friend's granddaughter has had sensitivity to over stimulation of the senses. The girl has had this from the time she was quite small. Her skin is very sensitive to texture. There are some kinds of fabric that she just can't wear. She also has a very keen sense of smell - some cooking smells coming from the kitchen just send her into a tizzy and she leaves the area quickly.

She has had therapy to help her desensitize her sensitivities. Her parents gave her anti-anxiety medication for a while. She seems to be improving as she gets older.

allenJo
Post 2

@nony - I watched this movie a long time ago called The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. It was about a young boy who was born with severe immune problems, which meant that he had to live in an incubator-like container to avoid contamination with his environment.

Actually I forgot how the movie ended, and I think it was based on a true story, but I bring it up as a possible scenario which might lead to hyperesthesia syndrome. Upon emerging from the bubble, such a person would experience heightened sensation to human touch.

However, I believe that such a condition would be short-lived until the individual got used to his environment.

nony
Post 1

I’m not a doctor, but I wonder if some dysesthesia can be brought on by some traumatic event, like intense physical abuse when a person is a child, whether that abuse is strictly violent or sexual.

That might lead to an extreme sensitivity-and fear-to the slightest touch sensations with another person. Again, I’m not a doctor so I don’t know if this is a common pathology for that disorder, but it would seem to make sense to me at least.

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