Neuralgia refers to severe, shooting pain that occurs due to a damaged or irritated nerve. This condition can affect any part of the body and may cause mild to severe pain.
Trigeminal (Facial) Neuralgia
Trigeminal neuralgia affects the trigeminal nerve. This nerve has three branches that send signals from the brain to the face, mouth, teeth, and nose. If you have this type of neuralgia, mild stimulations such as putting on makeup or brushing your teeth can trigger jolts of excruciating pain.
Trigeminal Neuralgia Falls Under Two Types:
Type 1 causes a painful burning or electric shock-like sensation in the parts of the face. In particular, people with type 1 neuralgia experience irregular episodes that come on suddenly. The duration of these episodes may last up to 2 minutes. On the other hand, type 2 produces a constant, dull aching sensation in the face.
Trigeminal neuralgia affects women more than men and it’s more likely to occur in those over the age of 50.
- Episodes of Severe, Shooting or Jabbing pain
- Spontaneous Attacks of Pain
- Attacks Triggered by Touching the Face, Chewing, Speaking or Brushing Teeth
- Bouts of Pain Lasting a Few Seconds to Several Minutes
- A Constant Aching, Burning Feeling
- Pain in the Cheek, Jaw, Teeth, Gums, Lips, Eyes, or Forehead
- Pain Affecting one Side of the Face
Trigeminal nerve function disruption. Generally, the problem is contact between a normal blood vessel and the trigeminal nerve at the base of your brain. This contact puts pressure on the nerve and causes it to malfunction.
Trigeminal neuralgia can occur as a result of aging, nerve compression, multiple sclerosis or a similar disorder that damages the myelin sheath protecting certain nerves. The myelin sheath is an insulating layer that forms around the nerves. This sheath allows electrical impulses to transmit effectively to nerve cells. When the myelin is damaged, the electrical impulses slow down.
Postherpetic Neuralgia (PHN)
Postherpetic neuralgia affects the nerves in the skin. Often this type of neuralgia develops as a result of shingles. In fact, about 10-13% of people who develop shingles suffer from neuralgia as well.
- Chemical Irritation
- Chronic Kidney Disease
- Infections Such as Shingles, HIV/AIDS, Lyme Disease and Syphilis
- Medicines Such as Cisplatin, Paclitaxel, or Vincristine
- Pressure on Nerves
- Trauma Including Surgery
This form of neuralgia affects the occipital nerves. These nerves originate in the neck and send signals to the back of the head. Therefore, occipital neuralgia causes a throbbing or shooting pain that starts near the base of the skull and radiates along the scalp. Furthermore, occipital neuralgia pain can flow to the back of the eyes.
- Sudden Head Movement
- Tense Neck Muscles
- Lesions or Tumors in the Neck
- Inflamed Blood Vessels
- Neck Injuries
Peripheral neuralgia refers to pain that occurs due to nerve damage in the peripheral nervous system. This includes all nerve fibers outside of the brain and spinal cord. Peripheral neuralgia can affect a single nerve or an entire nerve group. Overall, damage to the peripheral nervous system can affect nerves that control muscle movements, transmit sensory information, and regulate internal organs. Furthermore, peripheral neuralgia can cause pain or numbness in the hands, feet, arms, and legs.
Other Symptoms May Include:
- Involuntary Muscle Twitching or Cramping
- Loss of Coordination
- Difficulty Performing Complex Motor Tasks, Such as Buttoning a Shirt or Tying Shoelaces
- Hypersensitivity to Touch or Temperature
- Excess Sweating
- Gastrointestinal Problems
- Difficulty Eating or Swallowing
- Difficulty Speaking
Intercostal neuralgia affects the nerve that sits just below the ribs. This neuralgia causes a sharp burning pain that affects the chest wall, upper abdomen, as well as the upper back. Certain physical movements, such as breathing, coughing, or laughing, can worsen the pain.
Several potential factors may contribute to intercostal neuralgia, such as:
- Injuries or Surgical Procedures That Involve the Chest
- Pressure on the Nerves
- Shingles or Other Viral Infections
Symptoms May Include:
- Tightness or Pressure That Wraps Around the Chest
- Tingling or Numbness in the Upper Chest or Upper Back
- Muscle Twitching
- Loss of Appetite
- Diabetic Neuropathy
Because diabetes affects so many people, rates of peripheral neuropathy are now rising. Further symptoms include loss of balance, numbness, tingling, and pain. Overall, the best way to prevent diabetic neuropathy is to stabilize blood sugar levels.
When to See a Doctor
If you experience pain particularly prolonged or recurring pain or pain unrelieved by over-the-counter pain relievers, see your doctor. Additionally, you should consider talking with your doctor if you suffer from spontaneous pain attacks that become more frequent and intense over time.