OVERVIEW OF BURNING SENSATION
Most of the health abnormalities that trigger burning sensations are usually without a cure. They are managed to abate the pains they cause. As humans, we experience different types of pains. They can come as aching, dull or stabbing pains. Others can come as a burning sensation. This is the subject of interest in this article.
A burning sensation is usually an indicator that there are underlying nerve abnormalities. It has been commonly reported that autoimmune disorders, infections, and injuries are probably behind the burning sensations we feel. These three things can both cause pains in our nerves as well as bring about their damage.
If you really feel concerned about you having a burning sensation, please feel free to talk with your doctor or any healthcare professionals close to you.
Twenty conditions have been highlighted in this article to cause a burning sensation.
CONDITIONS THAT CAUSE BURNING SENSATION
The following are the twenty (20) medical conditions that can trigger burning sensations;
- HSV-1 and HSV-2 are the two viruses implicated in Herpes simplex
- They cause lesions (blisters) in the genital and oral areas
- These lesions are usually painful
- They can exist alone or in cluster forms
- They produce clear yellowish fluids after which they crust over
- Swollen lymph nodes, body aches, poor appetite, headache, fatigue, and fever are common flu symptoms
- Sun exposure, stress or menstruation can trigger reoccurrence of lesions
- Sciatica is associated with moderate to severe back pain in the lower region of the back and legs
- It is linked to an irritation of a special nerve called the sciatic nerve
- Sciatica can be suspected when you experience tingling or sharp pain that originates in your lower back and spreads towards the lower parts of your limbs
- Legs and feet feel weak and numb although the feet can also experience what is called a “pins and needles sensation
- Incontinence of the bladder or bowel is recorded – this is a clinical emergency associated with the equine syndrome
- Two names given to Canker sores are aphthous ulcers and aphthous stomatitis
- Sores small, oval-shaped ulcers found inside the mouth
- They can take up any of the following colors – yellow, red, or white
- They are harmless, though painful and self-heal in a matter of weeks
- When sores become recurrent, HIV, Crohn’s disease, vitamin deficiency, or celiac disease might be ‘lurking around’.
- Rosacea is a chronic skin disease
- It alternates between two cycles – fading and relapse
- Relapses are mostly potentiated by spicy foods, intestinal bacteria, sun exposure, alcoholic beverages, intestinal bacteria (Helicobacter pylori) or stress.
- Rosacea has four variants and present with multiple symptoms.
- Facial flushing, skin dryness and sensitivity, facial redness, and raised, red bumps are typical symptoms of Rosacea.
Peripheral vascular disease
- Peripheral vascular disease is blood circulation disorder.
- It narrows blood vessels located outside your brain and heart.
- These narrowed blood vessels can get blocked or bring about spasms.
- Arteriosclerosis, hardening of the arteries, or spasms of the blood vessels are responsible for the symptoms associated with peripheral vascular disease.
- Typical symptoms include fatigue and pain in the legs.
- Ample rest relieves these symptoms while exercise amplifies them.
- Peripheral nerves, located outside your spinal cord, are implicated in peripheral neuropathy.
- These nerves are damaged and hence their functions, compromised.
- Infections, certain medications, nerve injury and diseases have damaging effects on peripheral nerves.
- Symptoms are bladder dysfunction, sexual dysfunction, weakness, numbness, a tingling sensation in feet or hands, sharp, stabbing pains.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- In GERD, the content of the stomach including acids travel through the sphincter that separates the stomach and the esophagus.
- The sphincter is called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES).
- Content thus baths the esophagus.
- Because stomach content is now in the esophagus, they upset the esophagus.
- The upset results in heartburn, regurgitation, and mouth sourness, dry cough, swallowing difficulty, dyspepsia, and sore throat.
- These symptoms become worsened in certain instances like; bending over, lying down, spicy food consumption, consumption of fatty meals, or consumption of large meals.
- The affected nerve is the median nerve.
- The median nerve is pinched and squeezed as it travels to the hand through the wrist.
- Typical symptoms are numbness, weak hand muscles, tingling, painful thumb and pains in the fingers, especially the first three fingers.
- Activities involving wrist bending – typing, driving, phone holding or the use of tools can worsen symptoms.
- Usually accompanies with a painful rash.
- A rash can exhibit itchy, burning, or tingling sensations.
- Blisters may or may not be present.
- When blisters are present, they are usually in clusters.
- These blisters contain fluid and can easily break and ooze content.
- A rash occurs in linear stripe patterns usually around the torso, and less common on the face and other body regions.
- Chills, fatigue, low fever, & headache other typical symptoms.
- Pernicious anemia is simply a short supply of vitamin B-12 in the blood
- This is usually due to a failure of absorption from the intestine into the blood
- Because of this, healthy red blood cells cannot be produced in sufficient amount
- Common symptoms include chest pain, weight loss, body weakness, and headaches.
- Neurological symptoms like peripheral neuropathy, uncoordinated gait, spasticity, and memory loss are not too common.
- It is an age-related condition
- Parts of the body affected are the joints and vertical discs present in the region of the neck
- With time, joints, cervical bone, and vertebral discs degenerate due to continuous wearing and tearing effects on both the cartilage and bones
- The neck may become stiffened and chronic pain may be mild or severe
- Mononeuritis is as a result of damaged nerves lying outside the spinal cord
- Systemic, autoimmune, and infectious diseases are common causes
- General symptoms are a weakness, numbness, tingling sensation or “electric/shooting” pain in single or multiple body areas
- Symptoms of neuralgia are caused by irritated or damaged nerves
- Neuralgia is simply a variety of pain such as stabbing, tingling, burning or severe pain occurring in any region of the body
- Shingles, nerve compression, kidney disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, trauma and side effects from medications are likely causes.
Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- MS is a progressive autoimmune disorder
- It primarily affects the coverings that protect nerve cells
- Its symptoms are not readily predicted as they differ in duration and intensity
- They include fatigue, tingling, pain, numbness, weakness and spasms, dizziness, bladder issues, cognitive issues, and sexual dysfunction.
Central pain syndrome
- The central nervous system (CNS) is usually damaged in central pain syndrome
- Pain sensations arise straight from the brain or spinal cord, not from the nerves in the periphery.
- Symptoms usually vary in timing, location, intensity, and character.
- Pain can be worsened by internal and external stimuli such as high pitched sound, touch, movement, emotional stress, temperature changes, sun exposure, and bright lights.
- Discs are soft gelatinous substances found to be sited in between vertebrae.
- They have a shock absorbing and cushioning the effect on the spine.
- In herniated disk, the interior of the discs shoots out into an external ring which is usually rubbery and tough.
- This makes you feel pain and numbness especially on one side of the arm, leg or body.
- The affected area can also experience muscle weakness, tingling, burning or aching sensations.
- In mononeuropathy, nerve damage can affect either one nerve or multiple nerves.
- Accidental falls, injuries, or repetitive motion stress, are usually typical causes.
- Mononeuropathy varies in intensity, occurrence, and symptoms.
- Muscle wasting, pain, sensation loss, weakness, tingling, burning, poor coordination, weakness, muscle wasting, and pain are common symptoms.
- The pinched spinal nerve is its typical cause.
- The back, legs, or arms, are usually affected and this is due to the affected nerve.
- Symptoms are tingling, shooting pain, weakness, numbness, reflex loss, sharp pain that may deteriorate with some kind of movements.
- This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.
- Frostbite is a medical emergency requiring an urgent visit to your doctor
- It is due to damage to certain body parts
- This damage is caused by extreme cold
- The affected body regions are nose, ears, cheeks, fingers, chins and toes, nose
- Frostbite symptoms are white or yellow skin coloration that is either hard or waxy. Prickly skin can also be recorded
- In extreme frostbites, typical symptoms are complete sensation loss, blacken skin, and blisters that have become filled with blood or fluid
Bites and Stings
- This is another critical medical condition that demands urgent attention.
- It is characterized by bites or stings sites that feel sore, itchy, swollen and red
- Pain and heat can also be felt at the affected sites
CAUSES OF A BURNING SENSATION
Nervous system dysfunction or damage are common causes of burning sensation.
The nervous system has two parts –
- The central nervous system (CNS)
- The peripheral nervous system (PNS)
The CNS primarily influences the activities of the brain and spinal cord.
The PNS is made up of nerves branching out of the brain and spine. It is these nerves that now connect the CNS to every other part of the body.
The following are spine and nerve abnormalities that may give rise to burning pain:
Central pain syndrome is a disorder in the brain due to damaged CNS nerves. Burning and aching are not atypical of this condition
Cervical spondylosis is associated with aging. The bones and cartilage located in the neckwear and tears due to nerves that are compressed. This will commonly result in burning sensations and pains around the neck
Herniated disk: in a herniated disk, spinal disk, which has cushioning and protective functions, dislocates. When this happens, nerves are compressed and the resulting effect is burning pain and muscle weakness
Mononeuropathy affects just a single nerve. This often results in a burning and tingling sensation in affected body areas. It has sciatica, carpal tunnel, and ulnar nerve palsy as other types.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune CNS disease that affects the myelin sheath, an insulating substance of nerve cells. When this nerve insulator is damaged, communication within the CNS is altered. The attendant effects of this are spasms and burning pains.
Neuralgia affects any region of the body but more commonly the neck and face and it is usually due to an assaulted nerve. Stabbing pain and burning sensation are common symptoms
Peripheral neuropathy is an outcome of peripheral nerve damage. Peripheral functions are compromised and one of the symptoms that are often experienced is burning sensation. When two or more nerves are damaged, as typical in leprosy, this peripheral neuropathy is called mononeuritis multiplex.
Radiculopathy, a pinched spinal nerve in the spine, occurs with aging. Bones, muscles, and cartilage simply wear out progressively. This can be caused by spinal trauma or injury which will present as burning pain most times.
Accidents, traumas, and injuries are other probable causes of burning sensations.
Frostbite is due to freezing of the skin tissue upon exposure to extreme cold. Numbness and burning sensation are experienced in frostbite
Stings and bites from snakes and insects will normally produce a burning sensation in the affected area
Whiplash occurs when you with force, suddenly move your head back and forth great force. This is common in auto accidents. The receiving end of this action is the neck. It becomes stiff and experience burning feeling
The following nutritional deficiencies can also elicit burning pain;
- Pernicious anemia, simply a deficiency in vitamin B-12.
- Beriberi, vitamin B-1 deficiency.
- Hypoparathyroidism, a condition resulting from the low synthesis of the parathyroid hormone. The synthesis site is the neck. It can result in calcium deficiency.
- Megaloblastic anemia is due to either folic acid or vitamin B-12 deficiency.
Other probable causes of a burning sensation in different parts of the body are;
Shingles, which affects just a part of the body, occurs in those previously afflicted with the chickenpox virus. It comes with a painful rash and burning sensation. It is also called herpes zoster.
- Canker sores are viral infections accompanied by mouth ulcers or sores. They are usually very painful.
- Herpes simplex is a virus-induced infection. It elicits pains, sores and tingling in the mouth and genitals.
- Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is a circulatory disease involving blood vessels outside the brain and heart. Its burning sensation is aggravated with walking activities
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), an acid reflux condition, is due to a weak muscle ring that separates the stomach from the esophagus. This will make acidic content of the stomach to flood the esophagus hence producing burning sensation usually in the chest region where the esophagus is located
- Rosacea, a skin condition, produces bumps that contain pus. Any part of the body can be implicated. It will likely produce a burning sensation.
DIAGNOSING THE CAUSE OF A BURNING SENSATION
To get diagnosed, simply fix an appointment with your doctor or healthcare provider. This is usually advised if the burning sensation is recurring. You should be prepared to answer questions about how you feel and other symptoms you feel.
Likely questions you will be asked include;
- Where you feel the pain
- The intensity of the pain
- The time you started experiencing the pain
- The frequency of the pain
Other symptoms accompanying the pains
Your healthcare provider will also order certain tests to try to identify the underlying cause of your burning pain. These diagnostic tests may include:
- Blood or urine tests: it is usually used to check whether there is the presence of nutritional deficiency or other likely medical conditions
- X-rays and CT scans: they are both imaging tests adopted for the assessment of spinal muscles and bones
- Electromyography (EMG): it is used to determine how healthy the nerves and muscles are
- Nerve Conduction Velocity Test: it is used to determine how fast electrical signals travel along a specific peripheral nerve
- Nerve Biopsy: assesses damaged nerve cells in a part of the body
- Skin Biopsy examines a small portion of the skin affected. This examination will be under a microscope to check for abnormal cells.
TREATMENT FOR A BURNING SENSATION
Once you are being diagnosed by your healthcare provider, and the cause is ascertained, treatment will be commenced based on the detected health condition. You should expect that your treatment will be strictly based on the problem but you should expect any of the following treatment options;
- Dietary changes
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Physical therapy
- Prescription painkillers (or over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers)
- Lifestyle modifications
- Home remedies as recommended by your doctor
WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW
You should know that most of the conditions responsible for burning sensation usually are incurable. They can only be managed to alleviate pains and other symptoms they present
Seeing your doctor on time will really make a huge difference as you will be properly diagnosed and treated on time.
Sticking to the prescribed treatment plan by your doctor should be a top priority. Furthermore, be available for any arranged follow up plans with your doctor or health care provider.
Tonika Bruce, MSN, RN, MBA. is an accomplished nurse leader, published author, and personal development expert passionate about advancing healthcare management and quality patient outcomes.
She taps into the years of experience in healthcare management to produce credible and easy-to-understand health and leadership content. Her exceptional work has been featured in reputable publications, including Forbes, Recruiter, Inc, and the Color of Wellness magazine.