What is skin pain?
Skin pain is a common symptom of neuropathic pain, a pins-and-needles (prickling) sensation sometimes referred to as paresthesia, or of different types of burns to the skin. Painful skin is the result of injury to or pressure on a nerve in the skin. Other causes include damage to nerves in the skin from exposure to extreme heat or cold or to toxic compounds.
Neuropathic pain may be caused by peripheral neuropathy, a disorder in which the peripheral nerves that relay signals between the body, the brain, and the spinal cord lose function. Peripheral neuropathy can be due to a number of specific diseases and disorders, including alcoholism, diabetes, HIV infection, and Guillain-Barre syndrome, an autoimmune nerve disorder. Depending on the cause, skin pain may occur in a specific location on the skin or in a number of locations, and may be accompanied by redness, itching or swelling, or by other skin symptoms.
Burns, such as from the sun, heat, radiation and chemicals, are common causes of skin pain. Other injuries, such as bruises, lacerations or abrasions, commonly result in skin pain. Circulation problems that impair blood flow to the skin lead to painful skin.
Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if a sudden skin pain characterized by pins and needles is accompanied by numbness or weakness on one side of the body; a change in level of consciousness or alertness, such as passing out or unresponsiveness; or the worst headache of your life as these can be signs of stroke. Also seek immediate medical care (call 911) if your skin pain is the result of a severe burn or is accompanied by spreading redness of the skin or high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit).
If your skin pain is persistent or causes you concern, seek prompt med ical care.
What other symptoms might occur with skin pain?
You may find that skin pain accompanies other symptoms, which can vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the skin may also involve other body systems.
Skin symptoms that may occur along with skin pain
Skin pain may accompany other symptoms affecting the skin including:
Bleeding or bruising
Drainage or pus
Pins-and-needles (prickling) sensation
Redness, warmth or swelling
Other symptoms that may occur along with skin pain
Skin pain may accompany symptoms related to other body systems. Those symptoms may include:
Changes in sensation
Extreme sensitivity to touch
Foot problems, such as ulcers and bone and joint pain
Impaired balance and coordination
Numbness or tingling in other areas of the body
Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition
Sudden skin pain characterized by a pins-and-needles sensation accompanied by numbness or weakness on only one side of the body can be a sign of stroke. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have skin pain along with other serious symptoms including:
Change in level of consciousness or alertness, such as passing out or unresponsiveness
Garbled or slurred speech or inability to speak
Paralysis or inability to move a body part
Worst headache of your life
What causes skin pain?
Skin pain is a common symptom of neuropathic pain. It is often manifested as paresthesia, a sensation of prickling or tingling (pins and needles). Skin pain can also arise due to different types of burns to the skin.
Skin conditions as causes of skin pain
Skin pain may be caused by skin conditions including:
Burn from severe cold or heat
Cellulitis (infection of skin and underlying tissues)
Foreign body (splinter)
Psoriasis (before and after PUVA treatment)
Other causes of skin pain
Skin pain can also have other causes including:
Exposure to toxic or poisonous compounds
Extremity trauma or injury
Injury to nerve
Peripheral neuropathy (disorder that causes dysfunction of nerves that lie outside your brain and spinal cord)
Pressure on nerve
Serious or life-threatening causes of skin pain
In some cases, skin pain may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. These include:
Cellulitis (infection of skin and underlying tissues)
Deep skin laceration that causes extensive damage and bleeding
Severe third-degree burn (destroys or damages the deep skin and tissue layers)
Questions for diagnosing the cause of skin pain
To diagnose your condition, your doctor or health care provider will ask you several questions related to your skin pain including:
When did you first notice skin pain?
Where do you feel skin pain?
Does anything make it worse or better?
Do you have any other symptoms?
What medications are you taking?
What are the potential complications of skin pain?
Because you can experience skin pain as a result of a serious disease, it is very important to seek prompt treatment in order to reduce your risk of serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause of your skin pain has been diagnosed, be certain to closely follow the treatment plan that you and your doctor design specifically for you in order to minimize your risk of potential complications including:
Disfigurement and scarring
Necrosis (death) of tissues and gangrene, which may require removal of the dead tissues or amputation
Nerve problems that cause pain, numbness or tingling
Permanent loss of sensation
Spread of infection