Meralgia paresthetica is a condition characterized by tingling, numbness and burning pain in the outer thigh. It is caused by the compression of the nerve that supplies sensation to the skin surface of the thigh. Since it is a purely a sensory nerve, the disorder doesn't affect one’s ability to use their leg muscles. Meralgia paresthetica has also been nicknamed skinny pants syndrome, in reference to a rise in teenagers wearing skin-tight pants. Most cases of meralgia paresthetica can be cured easily using methods as simple as switching to loose clothing, however, in severe cases, treatment may include medications to relieve discomfort or, rarely, surgery.
Meralgia paresthetica usually presents the following symptoms which commonly occur on one side of the body and might intensify after walking or standing:
- -Pain on the outer side of the thigh, occasionally extending to the outer side of the knee, usually constant.
- -A burning sensation, tingling, or numbness in the same area
- -Multiple bee-sting like pains in the affected area
- -Occasionally, aching in the groin area or pain spreading across the buttocks
- -Usually more sensitive to light touch than to firm pressure
- -Hypersensitivity to heat (warm water from shower feels like it is burning the area)
- -Occasionally, patients may complain of itching or a bothersome sensation rather than the pain in the affected area.
Any condition that increases pressure on the groin can cause this, including:
- -Tight clothing, such as belts, corsets and tight pants
- -Obesity or weight gain
- -Wearing a heavy tool belt
- -Age also plays a factor in this disorder with older people more likely to suffer from this condition
In most cases, doctor rely on medical history and physical exam to make a diagnosis of meralgia paresthetica. They might test the sensation of the affected thigh, ask the patient to describe the pain, and require them to trace the numb or painful area on the thigh. Additional examination including strength testing and reflex testing might be done to help exclude other causes for the symptoms. In certain cases, doctors may also advice imaging tests such as MRIs or X-rays to exclude the possibility of bone or soft tissue abnormalities.
For most people, the symptoms of meralgia paresthetica ease in a few months. Treatment focuses on relieving nerve compression by means of:
- -Wearing looser clothing
- -Losing excess weight
- -Taking OTC pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen
If symptoms persist for more than two months or the pain is severe, treatment might include injections, tricyclic antidepressants and more. Rarely, surgery to decompress the nerve is considered. This option is only for people with severe and long-lasting symptoms.
Meralgia paresthetica is a not a very serious condition, but it is painful and debilitating. However with care and caution, one can go back to leading a normal lifestyle in just a few weeks.