If you know what it’s like to experience chronic nerve pain, then you may have also experienced some of the symptoms that come along with it, like changes in the skin.

While this may have been a bit confusing at first, it’s relieving to know that it is an all too common side effect of chronic nerve pain. Let’s take a look at what you need to know about how chronic nerve pain can affect your skin.

Why Chronic Nerve Pain Can Change Your Skin

If you’ve had injury or damage to your nerves that are located outside of the brain and spinal cord, then you may have experienced changes in your skin. This is because these nerves are also responsible for supplying your organs, skin, and muscles.

If these nerves become damaged, they may not be able to do a good job of providing your skin anymore, which can cause not only the texture but the color to change as well. It can also change how we feel things, like temperature, light, and touch.

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome or CRPS is also often referred to as reflex sympathetic dystrophy and is a chronic pain condition that can have a number of different symptoms.

These symptoms include swelling, inflammation and pain, and a lot of the time you’ll feel it in your hands and feet. It is considered a nerve disorder, which means that destruction, irritation, or damage to your nerves can cause it.

While experts don’t know for sure what the exact cause is of a condition like this, they do believe that it has something to do with an overactive immune system response or your sympathetic nervous system not functioning correctly. You can even develop CRPS after an injury or illness that has negatively affected your nerves.

People with a condition like this will, a lot of the time, experience changes in both the texture and color of their skin. Along with these common symptoms are others that may occur, including stiffness, hypersensitivity, a stabbing or burning pain, and swelling. You may experience red or pale skin, and it can also end up looking shiny and thin.

Diabetic Neuropathy

There is another nerve condition that can potentially cause changes in your skin. Diabetic neuropathy is actually the term for a number of different nerve conditions, all caused by diabetes. These can develop in people who have either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. If you have type 2 diabetes, the symptoms may be quicker to develop.

With these nerve conditions come symptoms that include numbness in your hands, feet, fingers, and toes. Because you can’t feel too much in your extremities, this puts you at a higher risk of infection.

It’s Important to Protect Your Skin

Don’t worry – there are ways for you to protect your skin, even if you are experiencing chronic nerve pain. If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, staying on top of your illness is your best bet against developing a nerve condition.

However, if you have already developed numbness, taking proper care of yourself is inherent. Cleaning with sensitive soap and keeping the affected area moisturized are great ways to avoid further complications. You can also change your socks every day and wear footwear that’s going to protect your feet.

Working out is another way to avoid symptoms of CRPS getting worse. Moving the affected area of the body can encourage muscle strength and help prevent swelling and stiffness.

Your healthcare professional may also be able to prescribe you something that you can take to control visible symptoms like skin discoloration.

References and Further Reading

1. Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Fact Sheet
2. Diabetic Neuropathy

Can Chronic Nerve Pain Cause Changes in Your Skin?
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