Meralgia Paresthetica

What is meralgia paresthetica?

  • Meralgia paresthetica (MP) is a problem with the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve (LFCN). It is also known as Bernhardt-Roth syndrome or femoral cutaneous nerve syndrome. A nerve is a pathway that carries messages to and from your brain. Your LFCN gives feeling to the front and outer sides of your thighs. The nerve follows a path that begins at your lower back, and goes through your pelvis. It attaches to your groin ligament and the muscles in each of your thighs.

  • When this nerve is squeezed, swollen, or damaged, it causes pain or loss of feeling in your thigh. You may have pain or numbness in one or both of your thighs. MP may go away without treatment after a few weeks or months. If you need treatment for meralgia paresthetica, it can make your pain or numbness decrease or go away.

What causes meralgia paresthetica?

Caregivers may not know what caused your MP. Other causes may include the following:

  • Anti-rejection medicine: If a body organ, such as the liver, stops working, you may need an organ transplant. During this surgery, an organ from another person is put in to replace your organ. Anti-rejection medicine is given after an organ transplant. This medicine helps stop your body from rejecting the new organ. This medicine may cause MP.

  • Medical conditions: Diabetes, leprosy (skin disease), or fluid buildup in the abdomen can cause MP. MP may occur if you have an immune system disease, such as lupus, sarcoidosis, or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). It may occur with hip or knee arthritis, back pain, lead poisoning, or drinking too much alcohol, too often. Growths in organs that are near your LFCN can also lead to MP. If you are female, you may have MP if you are pregnant or have growths in your uterus. Obesity (weighing more than what your caregiver suggests) may lead to MP. You may also have MP if you have one leg that is longer than the other leg.

  • Tight clothing: Wearing tight clothing, including belts or tight-fitting leg braces may put pressure on your LFCN.

  • Trauma: Surface or deep injuries to your thigh or groin area may cause MP. The growth of bones in soft tissue after an injury may also lead to MP.

  • Surgery: MP may come after you have surgery to fix your pelvis or spine. MP is more likely to happen if you were placed to lie on your stomach during the surgery. You may also get MP after your have laparoscopic surgery (surgery done using a scope) near your LFCN. This may include inguinal hernia repair. Abdominoplasty (also called a tummy tuck), weight loss surgery, or heart surgery may also lead to MP. Giving birth by cesarean section may also cause MP. This is when caregivers make a cut into your abdomen to take the baby out.

What are the signs and symptoms of meralgia paresthetica?

You may have pain or loss of feeling in the front and outer sides of your thigh. The pain or numbness may worsen if you sit and straighten your leg, or stand for a long time. Sitting may relieve your pain. You may also have any of the following:

  • Burning, stinging, tingling, cooling, or aching feelings in the front and outer sides of your thigh.

  • Hair loss on your thigh. This may occur because you are rubbing the area to try to decrease the pain, or bring feeling back to it.

  • Lower back pain that goes down your legs.

  • The skin on your thigh may be itchy.

  • You may feel pain even when your thigh is touched or tapped lightly.

How is meralgia paresthetica diagnosed?

Tell your caregiver about other medical conditions you have and medicines you are taking. Tell him if you have had the same symptoms before. You may also need any of the following tests:

  • Blood tests: You may need blood taken to give caregivers information about how your body is working. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV.

  • Electromyography: This is also called an EMG. An EMG is done to test the function of your muscles and the nerves that control them. Electrodes (wires) are placed on the area of muscle being tested. Needles that enter your skin may be attached to the electrodes. The electrical activity of your muscles and nerves is measured by a machine attached to the electrodes. Your muscles are tested at rest and with activity.

  • Nerve conduction study: This test measures the electrical activity of your nerves.

  • Imaging tests: Certain tests use a special dye to help pictures show up better. People who are allergic to iodine or shellfish (lobster, crab, or shrimp) may be allergic to some dyes. Tell your caregiver if you are allergic to shellfish.

    • Computed tomography scan: This is also called a CT scan. An x-ray machine uses a computer to take pictures of your back and leg. It may be used to look at your bones, tissue, and blood vessels.

    • Magnetic resonance imaging: This test is also called an MRI. During the MRI, pictures are taken of your back, hip area, or leg. An MRI may be used to look at your muscles or blood vessels.

    • Abdominal ultrasound: This test is done so caregivers can see the tissues and organs of your abdomen. Gel will be put on your abdomen and a small sensor will be moved across your abdomen. The sensor uses sound waves to send pictures of your abdomen to a TV-like screen.

    • X-rays: You may need x-rays to check the organs inside your abdomen. Caregivers use these pictures to look for intestine problems, kidney stones, or growths. Caregivers may also take x-rays of your hip and leg.

How is meralgia paresthetica treated?

You may have any of the following treatments:

  • Medicine:

    • Anesthesia: This medicine helps take away or decrease your pain for a short time. It may be applied on your skin as a patch or given as a shot into your skin. When given as a shot, it is put into your thigh's front, outer side to numb the area. Steroid medicine may also be injected at the same time to decrease pain and swelling.

    • Antiarrhythmics: These medicines are usually used to keep your heart beating normally. They may also help decrease pain.

    • Anticonvulsants: These are usually used to decrease seizures (convulsions) but may also be used to decrease pain.

    • Antidepressants: These medicines are usually used to decrease depression. They may also be used to decrease pain.

    • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: This family of medicine is also called NSAIDs. This medicine may help decrease pain. This medicine can increase the risk of bleeding, stomach ulcers, or kidney problems in some people.

  • Moist heat therapy: Moist heat that is placed on your upper outer thigh may help decrease pain or numbness.

  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation: This is also called TENS. A special device is used to send mild signals from the nerves going to your brain. These signals may help decrease your pain when used over a painful body part.

  • Physical therapy: A physical therapist may help you with special exercises. These exercises may help strengthen your leg muscles, or make you feel relaxed.

  • Pulsed radiofrequency: This device delivers very mild electrical signals to your nerve. This acts to block nerve pain, and increase your body's ability to fight pain. Ask your caregiver for more information about this device.

  • Surgery: Surgery may be done if your symptoms are bad, and other treatments have not worked. Your caregiver may do surgery to relieve the pressure on your thigh nerve. He may cut the tissue around your nerve or remove your nerve. Ask your caregiver for more information about surgery to treat MP.

How can I prevent having meralgia paresthetica?

  • Do not drink too much alcohol. Alcohol is found in liquor, such as beer, wine, vodka, whiskey, and other adult drinks. Drinking too much alcohol too often can increase your risk of having MP. Talk to your caregiver if you drink alcohol.

  • Do not stand for a long time. Standing increases the pressure on your thigh nerve. Avoid standing for long periods of time to help decrease your thigh pain or numbness.

  • Do not wear tight-fitting clothes. Wearing tight-fitting clothing, such as belts, corsets (binders), or tight pants may put pressure on your nerve.

  • If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar level in the range suggested by your caregiver. Having high blood sugar levels may cause you to get MP. Ask your caregiver for help keeping your blood sugar within the best range for you.

  • Talk to your caregiver about a weight-loss plan if you are overweight. Being overweight can make pain caused by MP worse, and can cause serious health problems. Eating the right foods may help you lose weight. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meat and fish.

  • Talk to your caregiver before you start exercising. Exercising can help you lose weight, and it may decrease your blood pressure if it is too high.

Where can I find support and more information?

You may feel scared, confused, and anxious because of your meralgia paresthetica. Talk to your caregivers, family, or friends about your feelings. Contact the following:

  • National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
    P.O. Box 5801
    Bethesda , MD 20824
    Phone: 1- 301 - 496-5751
    Phone: 1- 800 - 352-9424
    Web Address: http://www.ninds.nih.gov

When should I call my caregiver?

Call your caregiver if:

  • You are having trouble with any of your therapy or exercises.

  • You cannot feel or move your legs.

  • You have questions or concerns about MP, or your medicine.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You suddenly have severe (very bad) leg pain.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2013 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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