When Bollywood director Vasan Bala met a child who didn’t need anaesthesia to undergo a rather painful procedure at a dental clinic, he was quite intrigued. Bala learnt that the medical condition that made the kid not feel the pain is known as congenital insensitivity to pain (CIP). And that’s what formed the inspiration for his latest directorial ‘Mard ko Dard Nahi Hota’, which hits theatres on Friday, 20 March.
So, what really is congenital insensitivity to pain?
The Condition Behind the Character
CIP, also known as congenital analgesia, is a condition caused by a certain type of gene mutations that reduces the ability to feel physical pain. Right from the time they are born, those with CIP don’t feel pain in any part of their body, even when they get injured.
Wait, so if someone with CIP drinks something really hot, will they not feel a burning sensation?
Not really. According to the US National Library of Medicine, people with CIP can feel the difference between sharp and dull and hot and cold, but cannot sense, for example, that a hot beverage is burning their tongue.
So, is it great to have CIP just because you won’t feel pain?
- Experts say that not being able to feel pain actually tends to cause an accumulation of wounds, bruises, broken bones and other health issues that may go undetected.
- Such repeated injuries often lead to a reduced life expectancy in people with CIP.
- Children with CIP are more vulnerable to burn injuries because they don’t feel the pain of getting burnt. They may also get mouth or finger wounds due to repeated self-biting.
- Some patients with CIP also display a predisposition to infections and a greater incidence of corneal abrasions (scratched eyes) due to a lack of tear production.
- Complete loss of the sense of smell (anosmia) is another potential effect of congenital insensitivity to pain.
But why does a person with CIP lose his sense of smell? What does smell have to do with pain?
It’s not exactly like that. CIP affects the peripheral nervous system, which connects the brain and spinal cord to muscles and to cells that detect sensations such as touch, smell, and pain. And that is why, along with feeling no pain, a lot of CIP patients also lack a sense of smell.
How Rare Is CIP?
CIP is a rare medical condition. Around the world, there have only been about 20 cases of CIP reported in scientific literature. According to an official from the Indian Organisation of Rare Diseases, quoted in this Times of India report, the condition occurs in one among 2 crore people.
Reports also state that the south Indian state of Telangana has a relatively high number of patients with CIP, with as many as 70 cases having been documented.
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