Hyperesthesia is an increased sensitivity to the stimuli. It could be elevated sensation of touch, hearing, smell or vision for instance. Increased touch sensitivity is called tactile sensitivity or tactile defensiveness while auditory sensitivity is the name given to increased sound sensation.
Excessive consumption of caffeine can temporarily induce this condition in humans, due to excessive stimulaton of the spinal cord, as well as the cortex and medulla in the central nervous system. However, this is far from the only cause, and usually wears off after 3-5 hours.
In some cases, an outside stimulus is not involved and it is triggered by overstimulation of the area of the brain involved in sensation, in which case the hyperesthesia should resolve within a few hours. Whenever hyperesthesia occurs, it is advised that the patient may lie in a cool, quiet, dark place to resolve the condition. In some, aerobic breathing exercises and physiotherapy is beneficial.
But when hyperesthesia manifests as chronic, a neurologist is consulted who may prescribe medications such as analgesics to dull sensation, anti-seizure medications, and also anti-anxiety drugs.
Tactile sensitivity could occur in ADHD, fragile X syndrome and autism. According to a large study conducted at Hebrew University, 69 percent of boys with ADHD also had tactile hyperesthesia. It may be present as a symptom in neurologic disorders such as herpes family viral infections, peripheral neuropathy and radiculopathies. When the respective neurologic disorder is treated, hyperesthesia is simultaneously treated. Tactile sensitivity in children is treated by therapy under the guidance of a trained occupational therapist. In the process the child is guided through structured but fun-filled activities that challenge the child’s sensation, according to the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation.
Treatment is based on underlying cause of the symptom. If the symptom is treated, hyperesthesia in other words could also be treated. For example, hyperesthesia, which occurs in vitamin B12 deficiency, is treated by prescribing vitamin B12 supplements.
Other than humans, cats and dogs are also the sufferers of hyperesthesia. In cats it is known as Feline hyperesthesia or Rolling Skin Syndrome or Twitchy Cat disease. The cats having feline hyperesthesia exhibit odd, hyperactive, often aggressive behavior including biting, snapping, and self mutilation due to increased sensation. However, unlike in humans, the cause of hyperesthesia is unknown, though various theories have been suggested such as cats highly anxious or aroused or aggressive are more prone to show the symptoms of hyperesthesia. But the causes still remain a mystery. The treatment in cats involve making sure the cat doesn’t engage in aggressive cat fights, making its environment more home friendly that it enjoys it and finds it less stressful and engaging it in different exercises like chasing a feather for example. In few cases anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medications may be necessary after referral to a neurologist.
For a much detailed article on Hyperesthesia visit CPOE.org