Dissecting out mechanisms responsible for peripheral neuropathic pain: implications for diagnosis and therapy

Life Sci. 2004 Apr 9;74(21):2605-10. doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2004.01.003.


Peripheral neuropathic pain, that clinical pain syndrome associated with lesions to the peripheral nervous system, is characterized by positive and negative symptoms. Positive symptoms include spontaneous pain, paresthesia and dysthesia, as well as a pain evoked by normally innocuous stimuli (allodynia) and an exaggerated or prolonged pain to noxious stimuli (hyperalgesia/hyperpathia). The negative symptoms essentially reflect loss of sensation due to axon/neuron loss, the positive symptoms reflect abnormal excitability of the nervous system. Diverse disease conditions can result in neuropathic pain but the disease diagnosis by itself is not helpful in selecting the optimal pain therapy. Identification of the neurobiological mechanisms responsible for neuropathic pain is leading to a mechanism-based approach to this condition, which offers the possibility of greater diagnostic sensitivity and a more rational basis for therapy. We are beginning to move from an empirical symptom control approach to the treatment of pain to one targeting the specific mechanisms responsible. This review highlights some of the mechanisms underlying neuropathic pain and the novel targets they reveal for future putative analgesics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Nerve Degeneration / physiopathology*
  • Neurons, Afferent / metabolism*
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Pain Management
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / complications
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / therapy