What is hypalgia?

By Viet Nguyen Written by Viet Nguyen
Updated on July 25, 2023

Pain is one of the most basic feelings known to humans. Pain allows people to know when their body is in danger, allowing the body to react quickly and swiftly to the sources of danger. Thus, it is absolutely critical that you should listen to your body and take notice of any source of pain, as it indicates a potential issue. 

However, pain is not a universal feeling. For some people, pain is a simple luxury that they cannot gain access to. They do not feel pain, and this is much worse than it sounds. The condition is called hypalgia, and it is a serious condition faced by many people around the world.

What is the definition of hypalgia?

Hypalgia is a word with Greek origins. It is a combination of the prefix hyp-, which denotes the lack of something, and the stem -algia, which means pain. Hypalgia is the word to describe a rare condition suffered by many people around the world. People suffering from this condition will gradually become desensitized to pain, and at some point in life, they will not be able to feel pain at all. 

Some people are born with hypalgia, while some others might develop hypalgia over time. There seems to be a degree of hypalgia. Some people may experience a complete lack of pain, while others might be partially desensitized to pain. This is because the nociceptors, the sensory receptors that are responsible for the transmission of pain signals across the neural networks, are not working as intended. They could be temporarily or permanently damaged due to several reasons. 

People can get hypalgia not just from diseases but also from medications as well. For example, when a person is taking painkillers, they also experience a form of hypalgia. When a patient is going through the anesthesia process, they will also experience hypalgia as well, albeit temporary.

What are the pain receptors?

The pain receptors, otherwise known as nociceptors, are the main sensory receptors that are responsible for the painful sensations that you will experience. These pain receptors are neurons with specialized nerve endings, and they are distributed widely throughout all parts of your body.

These specialized receptors will first detect any stimuli that affect your body. For example, when a needle sting you, the pain receptors will pick up this stimulus. It will then transmit the signal throughout the neural networks to the brain, which will then process all pain signals. The intensity, as well as the location of the painful stimulation, is also registered so that the brain can provide the appropriate response. 

There are several different categories of nociceptors. Here are some of the most important ones.

  • Thermal: Thermal nociceptors are the ones that handle heat stimuli. For example, when you touch a stove or a very cold piece of ice, thermal nociceptors will jump in to intercept the stimuli and transmit the pain signals back to the brain. 
  • Mechanical: Mechanical nociceptors will intercept stretches as well as wounds that directly damage your body. These are the pain receptors that will come into play whenever you are hurt by a needle or a bruise.
  • Silent: True to their name, silent nociceptors do not send extremely painful signals to your brain. Instead, they send signals of low-intensity pain to the brain. These pain receptors will help the brain to identify sites of inflammation and bacterial infections, so silent nociceptors are often present inside the body.

Is hypalgia dangerous?

When hypalgia occurs, the nociceptors in an area will be deactivated. They will no longer transmit pain signals to the brain, so the brain will not be able to understand the concept of pain. Is this a dangerous thing?

As it turns out, it really depends, but long-term hypalgia can be a dangerous condition. For a short-term basis, hypalgia can be extremely helpful in operations and in emergencies. In a surgical operation, hypalgia will allow the surgeons to work without the risk of inducing shock to the patient, which is potentially fatal to them. Hypalgia in this case is also extremely useful. Furthermore, in emergencies such as a car crash or a battle, hypalgia will allow the person to remain calm for a while since they will not have to worry about pain. This could mean the difference between life and death for some people.

However, long-term hypalgia is invariably dangerous, as your body will lack the signals that allow it to attack harmful stimuli in the first place. If you do not feel pain, it will be impossible for you to know which part of your body is not feeling well. As a result, you will not be able to respond to the threats. 

Short-term hypalgia, if medically induced, allows doctors to perform operations as well as other treatments with ease. However, long-term hypalgia is a serious condition that can reduce your body’s defense against serious threats, so do be vigilant if you have to deal with it.