D'Arcy Little, MD, CCFP, Director of Medical Education, York Community Services; Lecturer and Academic Fellow, Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Toronto; 2002-3 Royal Canadian Legion Fellow in Care of the Elderly, Toronto, ON.
Neuropathic pain is a relatively common and challenging entity in the elderly, with a wide differential diagnosis and numerous treatments available. In general, damage to peripheral nerves via an injury or as a result of abnormal functioning is thought to trigger a cascade of events in sensory neurons that is responsible for the generation of pain. Potential treatments include tricyclic antidepressants, serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, venlafaxine, ion channel blockers, opioids, capsaicin and the Lidocaine patch. This article reviews the relative efficacy of these treatments, with specific reference to considerations in the elderly.
Key words: neuropathic pain, peripheral neuropathy, treatment, anticonvulsant, antidepressant.