Last updated: August 2023
Allodynia is a type of pain. For people with allodynia, things that should not be painful cause severe pain. Allodynia is a symptom of many conditions. For example, fibromyalgia can cause allodynia. And lupus is a risk factor for fibromyalgia.1,2
Talk to your doctor if you experience pain from things that should not be painful. They can help determine what is causing your allodynia. Management involves treating the underlying condition. Your doctor can also suggest ways to relieve pain.1,2
What is allodynia?
Allodynia is pain from something that is not usually painful. People with allodynia are very sensitive to touch or temperature. For example, softly rubbing a cotton swab on your skin should only cause sensation. If it causes pain, you may have allodynia.1,2
There are 3 types of allodynia:1,2
- Dynamic: pain from an object moving across the skin (such as combing or brushing hair)
- Static: pain from gentle touch or pressure (such as light feather touches or a cotton t-shirt)
- Thermal: pain because of mild changes in temperature
Allodynia is different from hyperalgesia. Hyperalgesia is an increased sense of pain by something that normally causes mild pain. Allodynia and hyperalgesia often happen together.1,2
Both allodynia and hyperalgesia are types of neuropathic (nerve) pain. This kind of pain can happen when your nervous system is damaged. About 7 to 10 percent of people in the United States have neuropathic pain. And about 15 to 20 percent of people with neuropathic pain have allodynia.1,2
What causes allodynia?
Allodynia happens when the nervous system does not work properly. There is a problem with how the nerves send and receive messages. But we do not yet know the exact problems with the nervous system that lead to allodynia.1,2
Allodynia is a symptom of several conditions. The most common causes include:1,2
- Migraine headaches
There are other things that can cause allodynia. These include:1,2
- Medicines, such as certain opioids and chemotherapy drugs
- Not having enough vitamin D or vitamin B in your system
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Trauma from nerve injury or stroke
What is the link between lupus and allodynia?
Allodynia is not a common symptom of lupus. It is different from lupus pain. Lupus pain typically affects muscles and joints. But allodynia is a symptom of conditions linked to lupus. For example, allodynia is a hallmark symptom of fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes pain and fatigue. About 25 percent of people with lupus have fibromyalgia.2-4
Lupus can also cause problems with your nervous system. For example, it can cause damage to nerves that tell your brain what your body feels. These nerves make up the peripheral nervous system. So damage to this system is called peripheral neuropathy. Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy include:5
- Tingling sensations
How can I manage or treat allodynia?
Talk to your doctor if you notice pain from things that should not be painful. Your doctor will evaluate the pain and determine the cause by:1,2
- Asking questions about the pain
- Asking about your and your family's health history
- Examining you to see how touch and temperature affect your pain
- Testing your blood and how your nerves function
The best way to relieve pain from allodynia is to treat the underlying condition. So if fibromyalgia or headaches are causing your allodynia, treating these conditions can help. For example, Lyrica® (pregabalin) is a common drug used to treat fibromyalgia pain.1,2
Your doctor may also recommend other ways to manage pain. This may include:1,2
- Medicines such as anticonvulsants and certain antidepressants
- Pain creams applied to the skin (topically), such as lidocaine and menthol
- Physical therapy
- Alternative therapies, such as biofeedback
Have there been things you have learned along your lupus journey that you wish had been explained to you by a healthcare provider earlier?