A Lifetime Free of Pain: A Blessing or Curse

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To many, not feeling pain would be ideal; However, to individuals with pain insensitivity, the inability to feel pain threatens their safety as well as their life. Normally, the somatosensory system (the body's system that senses touch, temperature, and pain) would react to dangerous stimuli applied to the skin by producing the sensation of pain in order to warn the individual of the harm being done to their body. In contrast, a person who suffers from pain insensitivity does not have a normal somatosensory system to protect them from damaging their body.skinandnerves.png
In the figure above, you can see that the skin contains both specialized and free nerve endings that detect pressure, temperature, and pain. For example, the Pacinian corpuscle is specialized for sensing deep pressure and the Meissner's corpuscle is specialized for lighter touch. Sensing pain and temperature is done by the free nerve endings. Normally, if the free nerve endings detected pain, they would send a message to the brain that travels through the spinal cord. This activates spinal reflexes that pull body parts away from the object causing the pain to prevent further damage to the body. Unfortunately, as you will soon see in a video, the somatosensory system of people with pain insensitivity does not work properly and everyday activities may become life threatening.

The video talks of Gabby, a young girl who suffers from hereditary sensory autonomic neuropathy, which inhibits sensation. Her condition puts her in extreme danger of hurting herself. As a baby, she chewed her fingers and tongue until they bled and her parents were encouraged to have her baby teeth removed to prevent her from biting them off completely, as some children with this condition do. She must wear goggles at all times because she has problems with scratching her eyes, which caused blindness in one of them. Without a functioning somatosensory system, your life is a constant struggle for safety.


The video gives a visual of how serious pain insensitivity is. Without pain, your appendix could burst and kill you without giving any signs that something may be wrong. In reality, the ideal life without pain would be a life-long curse of severely damaging your body and possibly death. Pain insensitivity could cause premature death by something treatable in people with functioning sensory nerves. Though nobody enjoys the sensation of pain, it is incredibly important and keeps us both safe and healthy.

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This page contains a single entry by meye1536 published on October 2, 2011 3:45 PM.

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