Congenital analgesia, also known as congenital insensitivity to pain (CIP) is a rare condition where a person cannot feel pain and has never felt pain in their entire life.
This may sound cool to those of us who feel pain whenever we are cooking and mistakenly pour hot water on ourselves or mistakenly touch a hot stove or mistakenly injure ourselves with a knife when slicing something but it is actually quite a dangerous disorder because the person suffering from it cannot tell when he or she is in physical danger.
Our pain sensation may feel like a curse sometimes, but there are so many benefits to feeling pain.
One of the most important benefits of pain is survival (being alive). Pain is the body’s way of keeping us alive. It is common for people who suffer from congenital analgesia to die in childhood because of injuries and illnesses that go unnoticed due to a lack of pain to make a complaint about proper medical attention.
Congenital analgesia is thought to affect 1 in every million life birth.
There are two types of congenital analgesia:
- Insensitivity to a painful stimulus where the person does not feel pain and cannot describe the degree of pain or the type of pain.
- The second group of people is indifferent to pain. They sense the stimulus but do not flinch or withdraw from it.
Complications (Common Injuries) of Congenital Insensitivity to Pain:
- Oral cavity damage in children as a result of the tongue been bitten off.
- Damage of corneal due to foreign objects lodging in the eyes
- Amputating an extremity unintentionally
- Fracture of bones
- Burn injuries
- Unnoticed cuts all over the body
- Lack of normal fear response to aggressive behaviors and uncomfortable situation
- Absence of tears due to the absence of pain stimuli to respond to
Treatment of congenital insensitivity to pain
Opioid antagonist: Naloxone was used in a woman who suffered from congenital analgesia, and she was able to experience pain for the first time in her life. Therefore opioid antagonists such as naloxone and naltrexone are the best medications to use in remedying the situation.
NOTE: Congenital analgesia does not belong to the hereditary sensory and autonomic neuropathy (HSAN) group of diseases. HSAN are different diseases that have more specific signs and cause.
Hereditary Sensory and Autonomic Neuropathy (HSAN)
HSAN are disorders that are characterized by inhibition of sensation. They occur in 1 out of 25,000 people worldwide.
There are five types of HSAN:
Type 1 (Affection of peripheral neuropathy)
- Type 1 (Affection of peripheral neuropathy) is an autosomal inherited disorder that is characterized by nerve abnormalities in the legs, feet, and fingertips. It is the most popular type and includes Charcot-Marie-Tooth type 2B syndrome. Signs and symptoms are hearing loss, ulcers (open sores), tingling, muscle weakness, reduced pain sensation, which leads to unexplained cuts on the feet or fingertips and reduces the ability to feel hot and cold.
- Type 2 (Affection of Sensory Neurons) is characterized by numbness in the hands and feet that starts in infancy or early childhood and progresses to loss of ability to feel pain or sense hot and cold substances. Self-injury, such as spontaneous amputation of phalanges (fingertips), is common in HSAN2 due to loss of pain sensation.
- Type 3 (Familial dysautonomia): is a genetic disorder that affects the cells of the autonomic nervous system that controls involuntary actions such as digestion, breathing, tears production, temperature, and blood pressure. Type 3 also affects the Sensory nervous system, as well.
- Type 4 (congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis) is characterized by loss of sensitivity to pain, inability to sweat, and intellectual disability.
- Type 5 (congenital insensitivity to pain with partial anhidrosis