Phantom pain

Overview

Type of disease: Rare conditions

Phantom pain is the feeling of pain in a body part that is no longer there. Phantom pain usually happens after amputation of a body part. Phantom limb sensation, which is the feeling that a removed limb is still there, is different than phantom pain, which is only associated with pain. Pain from the stump of a removed limb is also not phantom pain, as the pain must feel as though it is coming from a part of the body that is no longer there. Phantom pain often occurs in the part of the missing limb that is farthest from the body, such as the hand in an amputated arm.

The cause of phantom pain is not very clear, but it seems to come from the spinal cord and the brain. Researchers have found that parts of the brain that were connected to the nerves of the amputated limb show activity on certain brain images (MRIs and PET scans) when a person is feeling phantom pain. Some experts believe that, since the brain no longer receives signals from the amputated limb, it becomes confused and causes the feeling of pain as a response. Risk factors for phantom pain include having pain in the area right before the amputation happens, having pain in the stump, and having poor-fitting artificial limbs. There is not a test to diagnose this condition, but your doctor can identify phantom pain based on your symptoms. There are several treatment options ranging from medications to minor procedures to surgery. If you or your child has been diagnosed with phantom pain, talk with your doctor to discuss the current treatment options.

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