Skin that is sensitive to the touch is annoying, uncomfortable, and frequently unbearable. Skin pain or tenderness is medically called allodynia, a condition in which one feels an exaggerated type of pain or sensitivity even to non-painful stimuli, such as a breeze. There are different types of skin tenderness, including:
- Tactile or mechanical allodynia, which is triggered by touch
- Static mechanical allodynia, which is caused by light touch or pressure
- Dynamic mechanical allodynia, where brushing the skin triggers pain
- Thermal allodynia, which is felt with cold or hot stimuli
Abnormally increased sensitivity of the skin to different types of stimuli may be a sign of other health problems, such as nutritional deficiencies, nerve problems, or viral infection.
It is easy to recognize the symptoms of tender skin or skin that is sensitive to the touch. The pain may be localized or widespread, with intense pain that is usually triggered by stimuli that would not normally elicit pain. To test this, you may use a gauze or cotton pad and lightly brush it against your skin. You can also use a cold or warm compress or just the tip of your finger to apply it on the affected area. If any of these cause intense pain or tenderness, or a tingling sensation, then you may be experiencing allodynia.
Other symptoms include the feeling that something is crawling on the skin, itchiness, pins and needles, or a burning sensation.
There are many possible causes of skin that is sensitive to touch, and it may range from simple sunburn to a serious disease. Here are the possible causes:
- Overexposure to the sun - This causes a first degree to second degree burn that makes your skin sensitive to light touch.
- Neuropathies - These are caused by nerve damage, which leads to an increase in skin sensitivity. Neuropathies may be due to diabetes, B vitamin deficiencies, or trauma.
- Migraine - People who suffer from migraine may experience skin pain even when they are just combing their hair or wearing a necklace.
- Shingles - Previous infection with chicken pox may lead to a late complication called shingles or herpes zoster. This is a condition in which rashes or blisters appear on one part of the body and the skin becomes sensitive to touch.
- Fibromyalgia - This is a medical condition that is characterized by a syndrome of chronic body pains, tiredness, sleep disturbance, and allodynia.
- Demyelinating diseases -These are medical conditions affecting the nervous system, in which the myelin sheath covering the nerve cell is damaged, causing a variety of symptoms, including pain and skin sensitivity.
- Midbrain defect - The midbrain is a part of the brain that is concerned with evaluating and sorting different stimuli. A defect here can result in tactile defensiveness, which is an exaggerated painful reaction to normal stimuli like gentle pressure or light touch.
The treatment of allodynia or skin that is sensitive to touch depends on the specific cause. Treating the underlying cause may improve your symptoms; however, some of these conditions such as fibromyalgia and demyelinating disease are not very easily treated. Treatment for a condition like vitamin B deficiency may reduce or eliminate the tingling sensation in the skin. Herpes zoster may also be treated with an anti-viral drug, which will also eliminate the burning pain on the affected skin.
To reduce your symptoms, your doctor may prescribe a variety of medications. These range from non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen to anesthetic drugs like ketamine. Narcotic drugs may also be prescribed, such as morphine, tramadol, or alfentanil, as well as topical pain medications like aspercreme creams or capsaicin.
Sensitive or tender skin may be a symptom of a medical condition requiring proper treatment. If you feel unusual skin sensitivity, you may be experiencing allodynia. You should seek medical consult to treat the underlying cause and be relieved of this sensitivity.