Individuals who have undergone a limb amputation may find themselves suffering from phantom limb syndrome, a condition where the amputee has the perception that the missing limb is still present and performing as normal. When suffering from a phantom limb, the amputee might experience sensations such as pain and itching in the limb, even though it is no longer there.
Phantom limb phenomena are caused by changes in the cerebral cortex. The brain continues to receive signals from the nerve endings that would have controlled sensations in the limb. The brain attempts to rewire itself to accommodate the amputated limb, but sometimes this does not go smoothly resulting in these phantom sensations.
Amputees may feel a phantom limb for a few days or even weeks after the removal of a limb. However, in some patients, the symptoms can persist for several years following an amputation.