Neuralgia is a term often used to define sudden, severe, sharp shooting pain lasting from few seconds to few minutes due to irritated or damaged nerves. The pain is usually restricted to its innervated areas only. It may occur anywhere in the body.
Every person has faced neuralgia once or twice in their lifetime. It’s a temporary ailment but at times people suffer from long-lasting debilitating pain which even affects their quality of life.
Causes of Neuralgia:
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The exact cause of neuralgia is uncertain but it may occur due to:
- Damage/injury to a nerve
- Pressure over the nerve
- Change in nerve functioning or reinnervation
There could be many things causing it like:
- Viral: like Herpes Virus causing Post Herpetic Neuralgia
- Bacterial nearby abscess irritating the nerve endings
- Diseases like diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis,
- Fractures causing bone shards to press on the nerves or compression due to disc prolapse etc.
- Tumors pressing on nerve
- Advanced stages of syphilis damages the nerves
- Sharp shooting pain in the area of nerve innervation. Depending on the involved nerve the pain could change from sharp to burning etc.
- Tics/ fasciculation of muscles
- Area could be sensitive to touch or pressure
- Muscles might spasm
- Area is still functional
[Tweet “Neuralgia is not a disease but a symptom.”]
It could occur at any age but it’s more commonly found in the elderly population. Its most common types are:
- Trigeminal Neuralgia: it’s the most common type of neuralgia & presents with hemifacial pain which is of sharp shooting lasting for few seconds to few minutes. It may even cause tics or muscle spasm. It’s very agonizing pain and it causes daily activities like brushing teeth or shaving painful. Even a gentle touch or breeze could trigger it.
- Glossopharyngeal neuralgia: it causes Pain in Throat, neck, burning on tongue etc.
- Post herpetic neuralgia: it’s caused post herpes virus infection. It has painful skin eruption on the involved nerve area with severe pain in the involved region.
- Occipital neuralgia: pain is present in back of the neck causing painful neck movements and dull aching types headache at the back of the head.
Treatment depends on treating the cause.
- Treat the cause like removing the bone shards/ draining abscess/ treat the infection etc.
- Pain medication to relieve pain
- Anticonvulsants: to reduce muscle spasms
- Antidepressants: to reduce the pain (in some cases)
- Alternative therapy: acupuncture etc. have role in the treatment too as a supportive measure.
- Surgery has very limited role: desensitizing the nerve/ blocking the pain signals to the affected region etc.
Neuronal pains are very severe debilitating pain. Although the treatment options are very limited the science would soon have permanent treatment for the same.
I hope the post was helpful.
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Disclaimer: This article is for reference purposes only, under no circumstances it should be used as a replacement for medical opinion by Professionals. Any decision regarding health and health care should be taken after professional advice only. Health care advice and information shared by the author is best to her knowledge. We disclaim responsibilities for any inadvertent omission/ commission by the author or the website.
- Scott & Brown: Otorhinolaryngology Ed 6.