Background. Erythromelalgia is a rare disorder characterized by the clinical syndrome of burning pain, warmth and redness of the limbs. Neurological abnormalities (both large- and small-fibre neuropathy) are common. There have been few published reports on the sensory status of patients with erythromelalgia. Aim. To investigate the results of quantitative sensation testing in erythromelalgia using computer-assisted sensory evaluation, including vibratory detection threshold, cool detection threshold and heat-pain threshold (HPT). Methods. Patients who underwent dermatological or neurological evaluation of suspected erythromelalgia at our institution and received a final diagnosis of erythromelalgia were identified from a master diagnosis index covering the period January 1994 to June 2008. A retrospective chart review was performed. Main outcome measures were sensory abnormalities (e.g. pain, burning sensation, tingling) in response to heat, cooling and vibration during computer-assisted sensory testing. Results. In total, 41 patients with erythromelalgia were enrolled in the study and underwent computer-assisted sensory evaluation. Of these, 34 patients (82.9%) had abnormal results. The commonest abnormality was isolated HPT: 11 patients (26.8%) had heat hypoalgesia and 18 (43.9%) had heat hyperalgesia, whereas only 2 (4.9%) of the healthy control patients had hyperalgesia on testing. Conclusions. Multiple sensory modalities were found to be abnormal in patients with erythromelalgia, with the commonest clinical abnormality being isolated heat-pain abnormality. These findings lend support to the notion that neuropathy underlies the clinical diagnosis of erythromelalgia. Future studies will explore the nature of the relationship between these sensory abnormalities and the clinical features of erythromelalgia.
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