In terms of area, skin is indeed the largest organ of the body that is richly supplied with an extensive network of blood vessels and nerve fibers that collect information from a variety of receptors present on the surface of skin. These receptors range from chemoreceptors, photoreceptors, thermoreceptors, nociceptors and other types of sensory receptors that collect information from surrounding and prevent us from injuries, accidents and toxins. You many occasionally experience burning sensation of your skin, there are many causes for this condition and treatments vary accordingly.
Causes and Treatments of Skin Burning Sensation
Despite the protective properties of skin, it is indeed one of the sensitive organs of the body that may produce unpleasant symptoms if superficial layer of skin (epidermis) is damaged by sun - rays, infectious agent, physical trauma or environmental toxins.
1. Diabetic Neuropathy
Diabetes is one of the chronic and debilitating metabolic disorders that are characterized by persistently raised blood sugar levels as a result of partial or complete deficiency of insulin or resistance to the action of insulin. In both the scenarios, the raised blood sugar levels causes damage to nerves that presents as tingling or burning sensation on the skin of limbs or other parts of the body. Diabetic neuropathy is often an irreversible process that may lead to catastrophic consequences if initial damage is not controlled.
In order to manage nerve damage and other consequences induced by long standing diabetes, it is advised to control the blood sugar levels by insulin injections (type 1 diabetes mellitus) or hypoglycemic agents (type 2 diabetes mellitus). In addition, dietary modification and lifestyle changes are also recommended to improve the outcome.
2. Skin Conditions
Inflammatory or infectious skin conditions also present with burning sensation in addition to the primary symptoms of the disease. For example, inflammatory or autoimmune conditions like eczema, Rosacea and psoriasis are the most common skin conditions that may present with burning sensation as the primary or secondary symptom of disease process. In addition to burning sensation, eczema also preset with itching, dryness of skin and peeling. Psoriasis also present with scaly dry plaques and peeling skin. Rosacea is characterized by red bumps on the skin.
The management or treatment options of all these conditions are dependent on the primary disease symptoms. Most inflammatory or autoimmune conditions of skin respond very well to steroids (topical or systemic). It is better to seek the help of a dermatologist to seek specific treatment options. Meanwhile, it is suggested to keep the skin maximally moisturized with the help of creams, ointments and lotions.
Shingles is a chronic condition and result of special viruses like herpes zoster that stays in the nerves in an inactive form after initial infection. Individuals who develop chicken pox growing up as a result of varicella zoster virus develop latent infections for years, until the viral agents get activated from the state of dormancy as a result of stressful events also known as triggers (physical or environmental). Shingles are marked by appearance of painful blisters along the side of mouth mostly (in the area of dermatome involved). The blisters are marked by itching, intense irritation and moderately severe burning sensation.
Shingles resolve spontaneously after weeks; however, for early resolution of symptoms, you can use a variety of anti-viral therapies like valacyclovir, acyclovir and Famciclovir; along with antibiotic therapies or non-steroidal pain killers for relied of burning sensation and discomfort. A fairly common complication of shingles is postherpetic neuralgia that may persist for years after initial infection and characterized by pain and burning sensation. Healthcare providers prescribe anticonvulsants and antidepressants for the management of chronic symptoms.
Paresthesia is the result of disturbances in the normal functioning of nerves and characterized by impaired sensations and difficulty in controlling motor movements. In most cases, the cause of paresthesia is impaired blood circulation as a result of vascular deficits, or more complicated situations like stroke or heart attack.
The management options are dependent mainly on the area of involvement and cause of primary pathology. If it is caused by a pinched nerve, your doctor may prescribe corticosteroids or painkillers to relieve the burning sensation. For best results, seek the assistance of a healthcare provider if are developing motor deficits. Regular physical activity and strength training is helpful in most circulatory disorders.
5. Chemical/Sun Exposure
Often time, the superficial layers of skin may get damaged by intense or excessive exposure of sun that affects the moisture content and may lead to dryness and burning sensation. In addition, exposure to certain chemicals in the cosmetics and skincare products can also lead to skin irritation by peeling of superficial protective skin layers that increases the sensitivity of skin to environment and heat leading to tingling burning sensation.
Avoiding excessive sun or irritants can help in decreasing the episodes of skin burning sensation. Don't forget to wear sun blocks when you go out. If your skin does get hurt by environmental issues, you can apply and hot and cold compress alternatively to relieve the pain.
6. Peripheral Neuropathy
Certain autoimmune diseases, viral infections, long standing history of alcoholism and exposure to toxins, traumatic agents and tumors can lead to substantial damage, which causes peripheral neuropathy. The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy are generally progressive and may present with pain, discomfort, motor deficits, lack of coordination, bowel and bladder issues and similar disturbances.
The management and treatment is mainly dependent on the nature and primary cause of peripheral neuropathy. In certain nutritional deficiencies (lack of vitamin B12 and niacin), replacement with required dietary supplements often helps in reversal of symptoms; however, in inflammatory, viral and autoimmune disorders, the drugs can stop the pathologic process and for symptomatic management drugs like lidocaine patch, antidepressant medications, anti-seizure medications and pain relievers are generally needed.
Since skin is the largest organ of the body, any skin condition can produce cosmetic as well as systemic discomfort. It is recommended not to over-look burning sensation of skin as it may be an early symptom of more grave issue like diabetic neuropathy or even stroke. Seek immediate help of a dermatologist if you develop skin rash, bumps, itchy spots or discoloration of skin.