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Visceral Hyperalgesia

(Visceral Hypersensitivity)

Definition

Visceral hyperalgesia is a higher sensitivity to the normal activity of organs inside the body. A person may notice normal intestinal activities that most people do not feel. These feelings may be painful. The pain when a person is sick is also stronger.

It may be felt in the pancreas, intestines, and stomach.

Nervous System
CNS and PNS

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Causes

It is not clear why this problem happens. It often starts after an infection, illness, or injury.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk are:

Symptoms

The type of pain can differ from person to person. It may be dull and achy, sharp, or burning pain. The pain may be all the time or it may come and go.

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

There is no test. It may be suspected when no other cause is found.

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to manage symptoms. Choices are:

  • Counseling to learn how to change thought patterns to manage pain, such as through relaxation tools, biofeedback, and cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Medicine to lower pain signals that are sent to the brain, such as antidepressants or antiepileptic medicines

Prevention

There are no known guidelines to prevent this problem.

RESOURCES:

American Chronic Pain Syndrome
https://theacpa.org

American Gastroenterological Association
http://www.gastro.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Digestive Health Foundation
http://www.cdhf.ca

Health Canada
https://www.canada.ca

REFERENCES:

Ford AC, Lacy BE, et al. Irritable Bowel Syndrome. N Engl J Med. 2017 Jun 29;376(26):2566-2578.

Functional abdominal pain syndrome. International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorder website. Available at: http://iffgd.org/lower-gi-disorders/functional-abdominal-pain-syndrome.html?showall=&start=1. Accessed October 28, 2020.

Irritable bowel syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/irritable-bowel-syndrome-ibs. Accessed October 28, 2020.

Irritable bowel syndrome. London Gastroenterology Centre website. Available at: https://www.gastrolondon.co.uk/irritable-bowel-syndrome. Accessed October 28, 2020.

Visceral hyperalgesia. Cincinnati Children’s hospital website. Available at: http://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/health/v/visceral-hyperalgesia. Accessed October 28, 2020.

Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board James P. Cornell, MD  Last Updated: 5/5/2021