SCHIZOPHRENIA PATIENTS' INSENSITIVITY TO PAIN CAN BE LIFE
- A literature search by Dr. Robert H. Dworkin of Columbia-Presbyterian
- Center, New York, has turned up many reports of individuals with
- schizophrenia being insensitive to physical pain associated with illness
- injury. One researcher found that pain was absent in 21 percent of
- schizophrenia patients with acute perforated peptic ulcers and in 37
- of those with acute appendicitis.
- Among a group of schizophrenia patients who had experienced a myocardial
- infarction (heart attack), only 18 percent reported pain, although
- of heart-attack patients without schizophrenia report severe pain.
- researchers studied the autopsy reports of a "large sample"
- patients, of whom almost one-third of those over 40 had died suddenly,
- attributed the cause for many of those sudden deaths to painless myocardial
- infarction, and uncomplaining patients with some abdominal catastrophe.
- This reduced sensitivity to pain turns up in a variety of other medical
- conditions: in fractures, third-degree burns, cancer, peptic ulcers,
- arthritis. Surgeons report that schizophrenia patients rarely complain
- wounds are sutured or from postoperative pain. When researchers observed
- sample of 31 children with schizophrenia over a period of one to three
- they noted that the children displayed "diminished or absent reactions"
- physical injuries that cause pain in normal children, including cuts,
- bruises, burns, inflammation, and dental treatment.
- Insensitivity to pain can have severe, even life-threatening-implications
- an individual's physical health. "Because pain is a symptom of
- illnesses, insensitivity can delay recognition of a condition requiring
- diagnosis and treatment. In addition, pain serves as a warning signal"
- would otherwise leave us vulnerable to injury or severe infection.
- Reduced sensitivity to pain appears to be linked to the self-injurious
- behavior and incidents of self-mutilation that occur with some individuals
- with schizophrenia. It may also be what makes homeless persons with
- schizophrenia more able to tolerate their homelessness, but also makes
- more likely to be injured in an accident or victimized. ...
- (From Schizophrenia Bulletin, Vol. 20, No. 2, 1994)
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