What is meralgia paresthetica?

Meralgia paresthetica, sometimes referred to as burning thigh pain, is a condition of the peripheral nervous system characterized by tingling, pain or numbness in the outer thigh. It arises when the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve is compressed. This nerve supplies sensory information from the skin of the outer thigh to the brain. When compressed, it can cause heightened sensitivity or abnormal sensations.

Usually, meralgia paresthetica will resolve itself spontaneously or with lifestyle modifications such as wearing loose clothing. In cases in which meralgia paresthetica is painful, antiseizure or antidepressant medications that target the nervous system may be used. In extreme cases of meralgia paresthetica, surgical intervention may be necessary to release the compressed nerve.

Nerve compression can arise from swelling, injury, tight clothing, weight gain, and certain types of physical activity. In most cases, addressing the cause of the meralgia paresthetica will prevent any complications. Left untreated, however, meralgia paresthetica may lead to serious pain or paralysis.

Seek prompt medical care for persistent systems of meralgia paresthetica, such as numbness, tingling, or mild pain, as continued compression of the nerve may lead to permanent damage and paralysis.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of meralgia paresthetica?

Symptoms of meralgia paresthetica include abnormal or heightened sensation in the outer thigh. Abnormal sensations may take the form of tingling, numbness, sensitivity to touch, or burning pain. In rare cases, pain may extend to the knees, groin, or buttocks. Symptoms generally occur on only one side of the body.

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CAUSES

What causes meralgia paresthetica?

Meralgia paresthetica is caused by pressure on the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve. This nerve brings sensory information from your outer thigh to your brain. When the nerve becomes compressed due to swelling, overly tight clothing, or some other cause, normal signaling by the nerve is prevented, which can lead to abnormal sensitivity. Common causes of meralgia paresthetica include:

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TREATMENTS

How is meralgia paresthetica treated?

In some cases, meralgia paresthetica will resolve itself and will not require treatment. In most cases, however, it is treated by addressing the cause of nerve compression, such as by wearing loose clothing, avoiding certain physical activities, or losing weight. If meralgia paresthetica is painful or persistent, however, medical intervention may be required.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 6, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Brain and Nerves