Meralgia paresthetica is a disorder caused by injury or compression of the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve (a sensory nerve to the skin) as it exits the pelvis.
The disorder characterized by tingling, numbness, and burning pain in the outer side of the thigh. People with the disorder often notice a patch of skin that is sensitive to touch and sometimes painful.
The lateral cutaneous nerve of thigh most often becomes injured by entrapment or compression where it passes between the upper front hip bone and the inguinal ligament near the attachment at the upper point of the hip bone. Less commonly, the nerve may be entrapped by other anatomical or abnormal structures, or damaged by diabetic or other neuropathy or trauma such as from seat belt injury in an accident.
The nerve may become painful over a period of time as weight gain makes underwear, belts or the waistband of pants gradually exert higher levels of pressure. The pain may be acute and radiate into the rib cage, the groin and thigh. Additionally weight loss or aging may remove protective fat layers under the skin compressing the nerve against clothing. Pressure may also be caused by long periods of standing or leg exercise which increase tension on the inguinal ligament.
Meralgia paresthetica should not be associated with weakness or radiating pain from the back.
Meralgia paresthetica usually has a good prognosis. In most cases, meralgia paresthetica will improve with conservative treatment or may even spontaneously resolve. Surgical intervention is not always fully successful.
Treatment for meralgia paresthetica is symptomatic and supportive. The majority of cases improve with conservative treatment by wearing looser clothing and losing weight. Medications used to treat neurogenic pain, such as anti-seizure or anti-depressant medications, may alleviate symptoms of pain. In a few cases, in which pain is persistent or severe, surgical intervention may be indicated.