Hypoesthesia: what it is, symptoms and causes

Redazione Emianopsia
The Editorial Staff of Emianopsia
3 minutes
Hypoesthesia is a loss of sensitivity, whose cause should be diagnosed promptly.
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    When a patient shows a partial (only some forms of sensitivity are compromised) or total reduction (embraces any type of surface sensitivity) of the skin sensitivity to external stimuli (painful, tactile, or thermal) we are in the presence of hypoesthesia. The origin of the name suggests the characteristic of this problem: it derives in fact from hypo (deficient) and esthesia (sensitivity).

    Forms of surface sensitivity

    Since our body is subjected to three types of sensitivity, also the various types of tests that allow to recognize the presence of hypoesthesia are divided into three categories:

    • tactile: you touch the skin with a brush, a ball or a piece of paper
    • pain: a slight pressure on the skin is generated with a needle
    • thermal: hot and cold water tubes are used, acting on symmetrical skin areas

    Forms of deep sensitivity

    This other type of sensitivity, much deeper than the former, can also be affected by hypoesthesia. In this case we find these types of tests:

    • baresthetic pressure: pressure is applied on the skin, increasing intensity and duration in a progressive manner
    • pallestesic vibration: a tuning fork in a state of vibration is applied to an accessible bone surface (tibia, malleoli)
    • sense of position: we induce the patient to perform specific movements with his eyes closed, then asking for their feedback on the movement they have just performed or to replicate the gesture with the other limb
    • deep pain: pinch the patient’s Achilles heels or limbs to assess how much strength is needed to make them feel pain.

    The symptoms of hypoesthesia

    This type of problem can involve every part of the body and is usually accompanied by a loss of muscle strength in the patient. If hypoesthesia is triggered by peripheral nerve causes, we can find additional symptoms such as:

    • neuropathies
    • changes in motility
    • disorders of muscle trophism.

    Here is a video posted by the Gruppo San Donato that gives us an overview of how to tell when a neurological origin tingle.

    Causes of hypoesthesia

    When this kind of problem arises, the possible causes can be many, such as:

    • lesions affecting the central nervous system: this is the case of a transient ischemic attack (TIA), an aneurysm or cerebral ischemia, diseases affecting the spinal cord and spine (such as, for example, medullary tumours or syringomyelia) and injuries to the thalamus
    • consequence of surgeries
    • caused by a drug
    • result of multiple sclerosis, burns, leprosy, alcoholism, shingles, decompression syndrome (occurs during a rapid ascent, in this case is due to the emergence of air bubbles that form in the blood and prevent the proper oxygenation of tissues) and other pathologies
    • peripheral nervous causes (if nerves of the sensory ganglia or nerve pathways are damaged, a neuropathy occurs).

    The diagnosis of hypoesthesia

    Since there is a multiplicity of factors capable of generating this problem, it is first necessary to contact your doctor when the first symptoms arise. Through a series of analyses, it will be possible to narrow down the range of possible triggers, to have a diagnosis and to start a targeted therapy. The process to reach a diagnosis usually includes:

    • medical examination: the patient is subjected to a series of questions aimed at identifying the location and severity of sensory deficiency
    • study of symptoms
    • blood tests
    • Additional assessment tests: may include a computed axial tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
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    The Editorial Staff of Emianopsia
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