What causes skin pain?

Skin pain is a common symptom of neuropathic pain. It is often manifested as paresthesia, a sensation of prickling or tingling (pins and needles). Skin pain can also arise due to different types of burns to the skin.

Paresthesia may be caused by peripheral neuropathy, a disorder in which the peripheral nerves that relay signals between the body, brain and spinal cord are functionally impaired.

Skin conditions as causes of skin pain

Skin pain may be caused by skin conditions including:

  • Abrasion
  • Abscess
  • Blister
  • Burn from severe cold or heat
  • Chemical burn
  • Cellulitis (infection of skin and underlying tissues)
  • Electrical burn
  • Foreign body (splinter)
  • Laceration
  • Psoriasis (before and after PUVA treatment)
  • Shingles
  • Skin ulcers
  • Sunburn

Other causes of skin pain

Skin pain can also have other causes including:

  • Exposure to toxic or poisonous compounds
  • Extremity trauma or injury
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Injury to nerve
  • Peripheral neuropathy (disorder that causes dysfunction of nerves that lie outside your brain and spinal cord)
  • Postherpetic neuralgia (Pain in the area affected by Shingles)
  • Pressure on nerve

Serious or life-threatening causes of skin pain

In some cases, skin pain may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. These include:

  • Cellulitis (infection of skin and underlying tissues)
  • Deep skin laceration that causes extensive damage and bleeding
  • Severe third-degree burn (destroys or damages the deep skin and tissue layers)

Questions for diagnosing the cause of skin pain

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or health care provider will ask you several questions related to your skin pain including:

  • When did you first notice skin pain?
  • Where do you feel skin pain?
  • Does anything make it worse or better?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?
  • What medications are you taking?

What are the potential complications of skin pain?

Because you can experience skin pain as a result of a serious disease, it is very important to seek prompt treatment in order to reduce your risk of serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause of your skin pain has been diagnosed, be certain to closely follow the treatment plan that you and your doctor design specifically for you in order to minimize your risk of potential complications including:

  • Disfigurement and scarring
  • Necrosis (death) of tissues and gangrene, which may require removal of the dead tissues or amputation
  • Nerve problems that cause pain, numbness or tingling
  • Permanent loss of sensation
  • Spread of infection


  1. NINDS paresthesia information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/paresthesia/paresthesia.htm.
  2. Burns. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/burns.html.
  3. Ferri FF (Ed.) Ferri’s Fast Facts in Dermatology. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier, 2011.
  4. Argoff CE. Review of current guidelines on the care of postherpetic neuralgia. Postgrad Med 2011; 123:134.
  5. Ljossa TM, Mork C, Stubhaug A, et al. Skin pain and skin discomfort is associated with quality of life in patients with psoriasis. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2012; 26: 29-35.

What is skin pain?

Skin pain is a common symptom of neuropathic pain, a pins-and-needles (prickling) sensation sometimes referred to as paresthesia, or of different types of burns to the skin. Painful skin is the result of injury to or pressure on a nerve in the skin. Other causes include damage to nerves in the skin from exposure to extreme heat or cold or to toxic compounds.

Neuropathic pain may b... Read more about skin painintroduction


What other symptoms might occur with skin pain?

You may find that skin pain accompanies other symptoms, which can vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the skin may also involve other body systems.

Skin symptoms that may occur along with skin pain

Skin pain may accompany other symptoms affecting the skin including:

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 30, 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