The name is small-fiber polyneuropathy.
SFPN involves widespread damage to the tiny nerve fibers that carry pain signals and control internal functions such as heart rate, blood pressure and sweating. Patients often develop chronic pain, fatigue, weakness or fainting when standing, rapid heart rate or gastrointestinal problems. Common causes of SFPN include diabetes and chemotherapy-induced nerve damage, but this paper studied some of the 30 to 50 percent in whom no cause is found when they are first evaluated, leading to a diagnosis of “idiopathic” SFPN.(1)
A study of patient treatment records at Massachusetts General Hospital indicates that some/many of these cases are are in fact caused by an underlying autoimmune disease. That is, for unknown reason, the body’s immune system is attacking these nerve fibers.
Throttling back the immune response in these patients can actually reduce or eliminate pain from this cause and restore functioning.
If you or your child suffers from chronic pain with no identifiable cause, it’s another subject to discuss with your doctor. But take a copy of the article with you; the doc may not have seen it.
- Massachusetts General Hospital. “Autoimmunity may underlie newly discovered painful nerve-damage disorder: Immunoglobulin infusions improve pain and function in 75 percent of patients thought to have autoimmune small-fiber polyneuropathy.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 November 2017.