Hyperesthesia Definition and Meaning

Hyperesthesia refers to an increased sensitivity to touch and sensory stimuli, which often manifests itself as pain. It is closely related to other sensory disorders that represent either hypersensitivity or reduced sensitivity.

What is the hyperesthesia?

Hyperesthesia is primarily noticeable through hypersensitivity. Those affected react very sensitively to stimuli such as touch, cold or heat. See AbbreviationFinder for abbreviations related to Hyperesthesia.

The term hyperesthesia is used in both neurology and psychology. In neurology, it is often associated with an increased sensitivity to pain when touched.

Psychology describes a pathologically increased excitability as hyperesthesia, whereby the excitement is triggered by touch stimuli. The concept of hyperesthesia is inextricably linked to other sensory disorders that differ only by a few nuances. Allodynia describes a disorder that triggers a sensation of pain from stimuli that do not normally produce pain.

Dysesthesia defines abnormal, unpleasant sensory perceptions of normal stimuli, which can lead to increased sensitivity to pain, reduced sensory perception, or hypersensitivity. Hyperalgesia denotes an increased sensitivity to pain, while hyperpathy, in turn, represents oversensitivity to sensitive stimuli with an increased stimulus threshold. This list shows that some of these terms can also be used as synonyms for hyperesthesia.


The causes of hyperesthesia are not so easy to determine. For various reasons, there is an increased transmission of stimuli in the nerve structures. There are both organic and psychological reasons for this.

Permanent hypersensitivity to touch stimuli can occur in the case of mono- and polyneuropathies, CNS lesions, nerve compression in the event of a herniated disc, postoperative conditions or Sudeck’s disease (sympathetically entertaining pain). But there is also the phenomenon of phantom pain.

The body has acquired a so-called pain memory from previous traumatic pain experiences. Although the cause of the pain has disappeared and even corresponding limbs are missing, the same pain is still felt there. Irrespective of its causes, hyperesthesia manifests itself through intense sensory sensations as a result of increased stimulus transmission in the nerve structures.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

Hyperesthesia is primarily noticeable through hypersensitivity. Those affected react very sensitively to stimuli such as touch, cold or heat. As a result, a significantly increased pain sensation develops over weeks or months. A number of other symptoms can accompany this. Typically, there are sensory disturbances or symptoms of paralysis, occasionally nerve pain and cramps also occur.

Sometimes bleeding or inflammation occurs, which, if left untreated, can lead to further symptoms. Hypersensitivity causes severe discomfort in those affected and significantly reduces their quality of life. The symptoms of hyperesthesia often occur at night or during periods of rest, causing sleep disturbances. Those affected are easily irritated and often suffer from concentration problems.

In the long term, hyperesthesia can cause psychological problems, such as anxiety disorders or depression. Hyperesthesia usually occurs in association with another condition, but can also occur as an isolated feature. Regardless of the form, the symptoms usually appear suddenly and increase in intensity over time.

Without treatment, hypersensitivity persists and creates further complications. If the hyperaesthesia is based on a traumatic pain experience, phantom pain can occur.

Diagnosis & History

Whether the hyperesthesia occurs as a symptom of an underlying disease or as an isolated feature must be clarified in the differential diagnosis.

The question arises as to whether there is an organically understandable disorder of the nervous system or whether the increased transmission of stimuli is due to a previous trauma. The organic causes include nerve root compression in the case of disc damage, the presence of neurinomas (benign tumors of the nervous system involving the connective tissue) or polyneuropathies. For the differential diagnosis, an anamnesis is first taken. The anamnesis can already be used to differentiate between organic and psychological causes. Imaging procedures, such as CT and MRI, can detect any disc damage or neurinoma.

Furthermore, sensitivity tests, nerve conductivity measurements, reflex tests and other examinations are carried out. However, the existing hyperesthesia is often not to be described as pathological, but only to be regarded as a normal variant that manifests itself in a more sensitive reaction to environmental influences.


In hyperesthesia, there is a greatly increased sensitivity and increased sensitivity. No touching or stimuli can lead to severe pain and burning on the skin of the patient. In some cases, however, the hyperesthesia also manifests itself in the form of reduced sensitivity. In both cases, the patient’s quality of life is reduced by the disease and everyday life is made very difficult.

It is not uncommon for sleep disorders to occur when there is pain at rest at night. A general irritability of the patient can also occur. In many cases, certain everyday activities can no longer be carried out without further ado and it is not uncommon for the patient to have restricted mobility. The treatment of hyperesthesia is always causal and depends on the underlying disease.

There are no complications. However, nerve damage may have occurred that cannot be treated reversibly. The person concerned suffers from the symptoms and limitations throughout their lives. The treatment can influence certain stimuli and reactions again through therapies. However, the course of the disease is not positive in every case. Life expectancy is not affected by hyperesthesia.

When should you go to the doctor?

A visit to a doctor is necessary as soon as pain is experienced when touched for incomprehensible reasons. If there are no injuries and if the touch is classified as light, the pain is an indication of a serious illness. If the affected person reacts hypersensitively to being touched by people or when wearing clothing on their skin, they need an intensive examination to clarify the cause.

An increase in the intensity of the complaints is particularly worrying. If the person concerned experiences a strong psychological strain, he should consult a doctor. Help is needed if they are unwell, irritable, have trouble sleeping, or are unable to cope with everyday tasks.

If the physical symptoms lead to emotional stress, a persistent experience of stress or behavioral problems, you should see a doctor. In case of fear, aggressiveness or outbursts of anger, a doctor’s visit is necessary. Consultation with a doctor is also necessary if there are other symptoms such as headaches, itching, weight loss or discoloration of the skin. If the person concerned avoids social contacts, withdraws from their usual environment or becomes depressed, a doctor should be consulted. In the case of depressive phases, the consumption of narcotics or changes in personality, a doctor’s visit is advisable.

Treatment & Therapy

The treatment of hyperesthesia depends on its cause. If there are understandable organic causes, the underlying disease must be treated. This is how neuromas can be surgically removed.

Nerve root compression as a result of disc damage must be treated with physical therapy or, in exceptional cases, with surgery, depending on its severity. Polyneuropathies, in turn, have various causes that must first be determined by means of differential diagnostics in order to be able to treat them. Sometimes certain viral infections also cause nerve damage that causes hyperesthesia. In many cases, however, there are no organic causes.

Here the body has learned, so to speak, to react to certain stimuli with hyperexcitability or pain. Psychological support is then often necessary in order to learn a more relaxed reaction to these stimuli. This sometimes requires lengthy psychological treatment. The prerequisite here is the determination of a possible traumatic experience that could have triggered the hyperesthesia.


It is very difficult to give recommendations for the prevention of hyperesthesia. Both the organic and the psychological causes are so varied that the development of this symptom cannot be predicted. The course of the disease should only be halted by therapy initiated in good time if there are already signs of developing hyperaesthesia.


In the follow-up care of hyperesthesia, the focus is on soothing and preventive measures. Depending on the cause of the disease, however, it is not so easy to initiate the appropriate follow-up treatment. Patients should discuss the situation with their doctor and possibly combine medical methods and self-help measures.

A trusting relationship with the treating doctor is helpful for the successful improvement of the condition. If the illness was triggered by psychological complaints, psychological or psychotherapeutic treatment is an option. In addition, patients often receive strong support from family and friends.

This psychological strengthening is particularly important when a traumatic experience is responsible for the onset of the disease. In long, open conversations, those affected can share their fears and complaints, which reduces the symptoms of the disease. Such follow-up treatment can take a long time.

Relaxation exercises and gentle physical activity also help to avoid depression and discouragement. Yoga and tai chi are particularly popular. Long walks also ensure a better state of health and thus a positive course. In some cases, cold or heat applications are used to limit the typical symptoms.

You can do that yourself

The possibility of self-treatment for hyperesthesia depends very much on the exact cause of the disease, so that no general prediction can be made. In many cases, however, patients are dependent on medical treatment to treat the symptoms of the disease.

If the hyperesthesia occurs due to psychological complaints or upsets, treatment by a psychologist or therapist is necessary. In most cases, this treatment can also be strengthened by talking to other sufferers or to friends and family. Especially in the case of a traumatic experience, detailed and clarifying discussions about the experience should take place in order to limit the symptoms of this illness. Those affected should not be discouraged if the treatment has to be carried out over a very long period of time. This is common in many cases of hyperesthesia.

Furthermore, relaxation exercises or light sports can have a very positive effect on the course of the disease. Yoga is particularly suitable for this. Heat or cold applications can also be helpful. In many cases, this can limit the symptoms of hyperesthesia.


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