The underlying cause of any type of neuralgia is damage to a nerve. Each nerve in your body is protected by a coating called the myelin sheath. When the myelin is damaged or wears away from the nerve, the stabbing, severe, shock-like pain of neuralgia results. There are many different factors, including old age, which can cause damage to the myelin. Unfortunately, in many cases of neuralgia, a cause can never be found.
Type of Neuralgia’s
This type of neuralgia is associated with pain from the trigeminal nerve, which goes from the brain to the face. Patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) are much more likely to develop trigeminal neuralgia (TN) than patients without MS. Rarely does anyone have it on both sides of the face at the same time though there are cases where it has.
The trigeminal nerve is one of 12 sets of cranial nerves. It’s responsible for sending feeling or sensation from the brain to the face. The trigeminal nerve is actually a pair of nerves: one extends along the left side of the face, and one runs along the right side. Each of those nerves has three branches, which is why it’s called the trigeminal nerve.
Symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia range from a constant ache to a sudden intense stabbing pain in the jaw or face. Pain can be triggered by something as simple as washing your face, brushing your teeth, or talking. Some people feel warning signs like tingling or achiness prior to onset of pain. The pain may feel like an electric shock or a burning sensation.
Not to be confused with trigeminal neuralgia, occipital neuralgia is a neurological condition of the occipital nerves. These nerves that run from the top of the spinal cord at the base of the neck up through the scalp get inflamed or damaged. Occipital neuralgia can be confused with a migraine, or other types of headaches because the symptoms can be quite similar. Occipital neuralgia is a distinct type of headache characterized by piercing, throbbing, or electric-shock-like chronic pain in the upper neck, back of the head, and behind the ears, usually on one side of the head. The scalp may also be tender to the touch, and eyes especially sensitive to light. Occipital neuralgia is a distinct disorder that requires an accurate diagnosis to be treated properly.
Glossopharyngeal neuralgia consists of recurring attacks of severe pain in the back of the throat, the area near the tonsils, the back of the tongue, part of the ear, and/or the area under the back of the jaw. The pain is due to malfunction of the 9th cranial nerve (glossopharyngeal nerve) The glossopharyngeal nerve helps move the muscles of the throat and carries information from the throat, tonsils, and tongue to the brain.
Attacks are brief and occur intermittently, but they cause excruciating pain. Attacks may be triggered by a particular action, such as chewing, swallowing, talking, yawning, coughing, or sneezing. The pain usually begins at the back of the tongue or back of the throat. Sometimes pain spreads to the ear or the area at the back of the jaw. The pain may last several seconds to a few minutes and usually affects only one side of the throat and tongue.
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While neuralgia is not as common as many multiple sclerosis symptoms they can be highly debilitating.
Each type of neuralgia has some common and uncommon mechanisms of trying to help a patient cope with the symptoms and pain.
After a thorough question and answers session with a neurologist the physician may or may not request a magnetic resonance imaging scan (MRI) be performed.
In more mild cases over the counter pain medications may be advised while in more severe cases prescription medications, surgery or other forms of interventions may well be in order.
Many patients only experience neuralgia for short spans of time however the pain can be extremely severe. Other patients have more continual neuralgia related pain and require ongoing treatments or ever surgery to find relief in some forms of neuralgia such as occipital neuralgia