A European-wide awareness campaign for people with a chronic condition called neuropathic pain has been kick-started in Ireland by the Irish Chronic Pain Association and Pfizer Healthcare Ireland.
A website, www.mysterypain.ie, has been launched as part of the campaign to provide information and support for people who are unable to describe their pain.
Neuropathic pain can be distressing for patients and puzzling for doctors who have to treat it. It is often misdiagnosed and undertreated, partly because patients find it difficult to put their pain into words.
The initiative aims to lessen the gap between the language used by the GP and that used by the patient in describing their pain, thus assisting with earlier diagnosis and treatment of the condition.
Common descriptors used by patients include burning, crawling, stabbing, and shocking.
Neuropathic pain is a chronic pain condition that results from damage to either the nerves that normally sense pain or other parts of the nervous system that transmit pain signals, such as the spine or the brain.
It is estimated that up to 120,000 people are affected by neuropathic pain in Ireland with more than a third of neuropathic pain patients saying the condition is a source of daily physical suffering.
“Neuropathic pain sufferers are often concerned that others may believe the pain symptoms are all in their head; it is not and sufferers are not alone,” said Gina Plunkett of the Irish Chronic Pain Association. “There are many thousands of people throughout the country who experience the same pain symptoms and the mysterypain.ie website is there to help.”
Dr Connail McCrory, medical director of pain medicine, St James Hospital, explained that neuropathic pain is a disease entity in its own right. “Intense pain is a warning sign of potential tissue damage — a protective biological response. However we now understand that neuropathic pain has no protective function and is an abnormal function within the nervous system in the absence of any actual tissue damage.
“The good news is that once it has been properly diagnosed, it can be treated by drug or interventional therapies. In addition to this, physical and psychological rehabilitation can often benefit sufferers as part of a pain management programme.”
The campaign has the support of Spinal Injuries Ireland, Diabetes Federation of Ireland and the Irish Pain Society. For more information visit www.mysterypain.ie