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Medical Terminology for Abnormal Sensations

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  • 0:01 Abnormal Sensations
  • 0:20 Causalgia,…
  • 1:24 Conditions with…
  • 3:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
This lesson defines several terms for and conditions related to abnormal sensations: causalgia, hyperesthesia, paresthesia, restless legs syndrome, peripheral neuropathy, and complex regional pain syndrome.

Abnormal Sensations

I've felt a lot of different feelings and things before. I've felt happy and sad. I've felt felt and wool. But this lesson isn't going to be about those kinds of feelings. It will be about the terminology and some conditions related to abnormal sensations, ones that can cause a person to feel everything from burning pain to a prickling sensation.

Causalgia, Hyperesthesia, & Paresthesia

First, let's discuss three terms related to abnormal sensations. I'm positive you've heard people claim they feel really painful even at the slightest touch, or sense a burning pain, or maybe a prickling sensation. Well, believe it or not, there are technical terms for all of these:

  • An abnormal sensation, such as the sensation of burning, prickling, or tingling, sometimes as a result of damage to a sensory nerve, is called paresthesia; this word comes from 'par-,' which means 'abnormal' and '-esthesia,' which refers to a sensation of something.
  • An abnormally increased sensitivity to sensory stimuli, such as to touch and pain, is called hyperesthesia, where 'hyper-' means an abnormal amount or excess of something.
  • More specifically related to burning pain, a sensation of burning pain of the skin, usually due to a peripheral nerve injury, is called causalgia; 'caus-' is a prefix that means burn or burning, while '-algia' means pain.

Conditions with Abnormal Sensations

Causalgia is a significant part of complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), chronic (that is to say long-term) pain that affects one of the limbs after injury to that limb. The pain associated with CRPS is worse than would be expected of the injury. Some people with similar injuries do not develop CRPS, while other do. This is like allergies. Some people are allergic to pollen and others are not. And so, in a way, CRPS is the body's allergy to trauma that causes severe pain, instead of nasal congestion.

Paresthesia is a large part of something called restless legs syndrome (RLS), a neurological disorder characterized by abnormal and unpleasant sensations in the legs with an irresistible urge to move the legs. These sensations are most noticeable when the person is trying to rest or sleep and the name of the condition kind of gives away what it's all about. Finally, those scientists and doctors named something for what it is in laymen's terms!

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