Image_5_Capsaicin-Induced Skin Desensitization Differentially Affects A-Delta and C-Fiber-Mediated Heat Sensitivity.tif
Localized neuropathic pain can be relieved following the topical application of high-concentration capsaicin. This clinical effect is thought to be related to the temporary desensitization of capsaicin- and heat-sensitive epidermal nociceptors. The objective of the present study was to examine whether the changes in thermal sensitivity induced by high-concentration topical capsaicin can be explained entirely by desensitization of capsaicin-sensitive afferents. For this purpose, we characterized, in 20 healthy human volunteers, the time course and spatial extent of the changes in sensitivity to thermal stimuli preferentially activating heat-sensitive A-fiber nociceptors, heat-sensitive C-fiber afferents, and cool-sensitive A-fiber afferents. The volar forearm was treated with a high-concentration capsaicin patch for 1 h. Transient heat, warm and cold stimuli designed to activate Aδ- and C-fiber thermonociceptors, C-fiber warm receptors, and Aδ-fiber cold receptors were applied to the skin before and after treatment at days 1, 3, and 7. Reaction times, intensity ratings, and quality descriptors were collected. The stimuli were applied both within the capsaicin-treated skin and around the capsaicin-treated skin to map the changes in thermal sensitivity. We found that topical capsaicin selectively impairs heat sensitivity without any concomitant changes in cold sensitivity. Most interestingly, we observed a differential effect on the sensitivity to thermal inputs conveyed by Aδ- and C-fibers. Reduced sensitivity to Aδ-fiber-mediated heat was restricted to the capsaicin-treated skin, whereas reduced sensitivity to C-fiber-mediated heat extended well beyond the treated skin. Moreover, the time course of the reduced sensitivity to C-fiber-mediated input was more prolonged than the reduced sensitivity to Aδ-fiber-mediated input.