Neuralgia is an acute, severe, stabbing, burning and often excruciating intermittent pain along a nerve which may be due to irritated or damaged nerves.
It can also be seen as unpleasant and emotional experience associated with injured nerve. The damage, irritated or injured nerves may be anywhere in the body and the damages may be caused by several things which may include, age, infections and multiple sclerosis (abnormal hardening if body tissue such as artery).
Benefits of neuralgia
Neuralgia has some important benefits such as:
- Neuralgia gives early warning signal about the existence if a problem or threat you are facing. That is, when you are feeling pain in a particular area, there is a signal you get that there is something happening or there is a problem. So, that pain is the threat in the body.
- It helps prevent further damage to you that is affected by causing or making you withdraw from strenuous or stressful activities.
- It causes a prompt or reciprocal response by the affected individual. In other words, it makes you to seek appropriate treatment on time.
- It forces you to observe maximum rest.
Causes of neuralgia
There are several things which can cause neuralgia. These causes include:
- Infection: Infection in any part or area of your body can affect the associated nerve supplying such area. Similarly, for instance a tooth is infected, there us high possibility that the nerve supplying to the tooth might be affected too. In such case, you will experience neuralgia as a result of such infection.
- Multiple sclerosis: This is a disease that is characterized by abnormal hardening of the body tissue. Also, deterioration(reducing) of myelin. Myelin is the component if fibre covering the nerve.
- Pressure on nerve: Prolong pressure or compression on a nerve can cause neuralgia. For instance, compression of tibia nerve (nerve supplying muscles of the leg) may be compressed for a long time and this can cause the foot to fall asleep or numbness of the leg. The pressure on nerve can also come from bone, ligament and blood vessels.
Another instance on compression of nerve, may be trigeminal nerve (cranial nerve V) as a result of contact between a normal blood vessel (e.g. artery or vain).
The compression or pressure on the trigeminal nerve may occur at the base of the skull. This type of compression result in trigeminal neuralgia.
- Diabetes: Hyperglycaemia (excess concentration of glucose in the blood steam) may damage nerve. This damage is most common in hand, arm, feet and legs.
Other causes of neuralgia
There are some minor or less common causes of neuralgia. The other less causes of neuralgia.
The other less causes of neuralgia may include:
- Chronic Kidney disease (CKD)
- Medications prescribed for cancer e.g. methotrexate
- Chemical irritation
- Trauma from surgery
Types of neuralgia
- Glossopharyngeal neuralgia: This can occur or seen when the glossopharyngeal nerve (cranial nerve IX) is compressed. Glossopharyngeal nerve extends and supply muscles of contraction of the pharynx. Hence, in glossopharyngeal neuralgia, pain is observed or felt in the neck or throat.
- Post herpetic neuralgia: This is a viral infection characterized by a painful rash and blister. This pain may be mild, severe, persistent and on and off (erratic) which can last for months or even years. This pain may be felt in any part of the body and also might be associated with one side if the body (as seen in hemiplegia).
- Trigeminal neuralgia: This is a type of neuralgia associated with pain from trigeminal nerve (cranial nerve V) which travels from the brain and branches to different parts of the face. This kind of neuralgia (trigeminal neuralgia) may also be caused by aging, multiple sclerosis and injury to the nerve itself. It can cause severe recurrent pain in the face usually on one side. This one side face pain is as a result of the fact that trigeminal nerve is the major nerves involve in somatic sensation of the face. It is mostly common in people who are over 50 years old.
Symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia
Trigeminal neuralgia symptoms may include one or more of the following:
- Pain on the face lasting for few seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months or even longer.
- Consistent burning feeling which may occur and even become spasm-like-pain
- Stages of severe pain that may seem like electric shock.
- Spontaneous attack if pain in the face as a result of touching the face, chewing, speaking or even brushing your teeth.
Triggers of trigeminal neuralgia
There are some certain things that can trigger trigeminal neuralgia.
- Brushing of teeth
- Washing of the face
- Putting on make up
- Touching of face
- Cool breeze.
Treatments of neuralgia
Once the cause of neuralgia is discovered, the treatment would be focused on treating the underlying cause. If the cause is not found, treatment will focus on relieving the pain.
Potential treatment may include:
- Surgery to relieve the pressure of the nerve: In a case of trigeminal neuralgia for instance, whereby trigeminal nerve might be compressed due to contact with blood vessels. A surgery that might involve separation of the blood vessel and the nerve may be carried out in order to reduce or relieve pain. The surgery also prevents the malfunctioning of trigeminal nerve which may be the cause of the pain.
However, the surgery may involve cutting of trigeminal nerve (in a case of trigeminal neuralgia). This procedure (cutting of trigeminal nerve) is called NEURECTOMY.
- Better control of sugar level in people with diabetes-caused-neuralgia. This is only applicable in persons that are experiencing neuralgia as a result of hyperglycaemia. Treatment may include reduction in consumption of carbohydrates rich food and taking of some anti-diabetic’s drugs. Better control of blood sugar level is only applicable to diabetes-caused-neuralgia.
- An injection can be directed towards a particular nerve or group of nerves that is causing neuralgia (e.g. trigeminal neuralgia), which is intended to “turn off” pain signal and reduce inflammation. This procedure is called NERVE BLOCK.
- Spinal anaesthesia: In this case, a lumber puncture is made, and aesthetic injection is being injected into a neuralgic patient or into an individual suffering of neuralgia. This anaesthetics injection causes any individual to be insensitive to pain in a particular region.
Some medications may include:
- Anti-seizure and anticonvulsant such as carbamazepine is very effective for trigeminal neuralgia.
- Anti- depressant such as amitriptyline which are effective in treating nerve pain.
- Short term narcotic medication such as codeine.
Neuralgia is an intensive on and off(erratic) pain which is transmitted through a nerve or group of nerve in human body. It is a medical condition that requires an immediate and effective medical response.
Therefore, an individual is advised to seek immediate medical help if such individual exhibits or is exhibiting symptoms of neuralgia.
Lastly, various treatment may be given to patient depending on symptoms being exhibited by such patient. However, extreme treatment may include surgery if neuralgia involves other medical complications.
Hence, an individual is advised to seek immediate medical help once symptoms are being experienced or are manifesting in such an individual to avoid further medical complications.