Neuralgia is a sharp, stabbing, and often severe pain that follows the path of a damaged nerve. Here are some treatment options that provide you relief by alleviating your pain.
Neuralgia is characterized by severe pain in a damaged nerve pathway. Even though the damaged nerve may be present anywhere in the body, the most common places to be affected are the face and the neck. There can be various causes that may damage a nerve, including diseases such as multiple sclerosis and diabetes, or an infection like shingles, or just old age. It is important to try and pinpoint the cause of neuralgia because the treatment for this condition depends upon the cause. Often, the cause is unknown so the treatment plans focus on relieving the chronic pain.
Since neuralgia can occur in different parts of the body, there are several types of this condition. Some of the examples of these are postherpetic neuralgia, trigeminal neuralgia, occipital neuralgia, and glossopharyngeal neuralgia. Trigeminal neuralgia and postherpetic neuralgia are the two most common forms of this condition. Trigeminal neuralgia is when the pain is associated with the trigeminal nerve that carries stimulus from the face to the brain. This type of neuralgia usually causes pain on one side of the face, and the most common age group to be affected are the elderly. Postherpetic neuralgia, on the other hand, occurs as a result of a complication of shingles.
Some of the symptoms associated with trigeminal neuralgia are episodes of severe pain which may feel like an electric shock; pain in areas such as cheek, gums, teeth, jaw, or lips; pain in just one side of the face at a time; pain that lasts from a few seconds to several minutes; as well as attacks that over time become more intense and frequent. There are also various triggers which might be deemed mundane but still set off the pain of trigeminal neuralgia. These include shaving, drinking, eating, talking, touching the face, smiling, brushing the teeth, and applying makeup. As you can clearly see, this is one of those types of neuralgia that greatly affects the quality of your life.
There are certain tests such as neurological examinations and MRIs that doctors use to diagnose neuralgia as well as to find out the underlying cause of the same. Once the type of neuralgia is diagnosed, the treatment plan is then laid out. The treatments usually start with medications, and there are several people that do not require any additional treatment. There are, however, a handful of people who stop responding to the medications over a period of time or who may start experiencing side effects. For such people, surgery or injections are the other available treatment options.
After the diagnosis of neuralgia, the first thing that a doctor will do is prescribe medications that help by either blocking or lessening the pain signals sent to the brain. Some of these medications include:
Antispasmodic agents or muscle relaxants work by inhibiting the involuntary muscle movements which may be triggered by the misfiring of neurons during a neuralgia episode. They are usually used to find relief from pain caused by trigeminal neuralgia and are sometimes used along with anticonvulsants. The most common antispasmodics that are used are Gablofen, Lioresal, and Kemstro. When you are on antispasmodics, you may experience side effects such as nausea, confusion, and drowsiness.
The anticonvulsants are the most common medications used to treat pain associated with neuralgia. Your prescriptions may include more than one anticonvulsant to find out which works best to help ease your pain. These medications are usually prescribed instead of the traditional painkillers because they are more effective in blocking the pain signals due to the misfiring of neurons. Some of the anticonvulsants that are used to treat trigeminal neuralgia are klonopin, gabapentin, and carbamazepine. Just a word of caution, your doctor may switch your prescription with another anticonvulsant because these medications may lose their effectiveness over a period of time. Also, the drug ‘carbamazepine’ has been found to trigger a serious drug reaction in some people, especially those of Asian lineage. So the doctors may recommend genetic testing before prescribing this anticonvulsant. The side effects associated with anticonvulsants may include confusion, nausea, drowsiness, and dizziness.
If you are suffering from trigeminal neuralgia and the medications do not provide you with relief any longer, your doctor may suggest taking a Botox injection. There have been small studies that have found that onabotulinumtoxinA (Botox) injections may help reduce the pain associated with trigeminal neuralgia. However, there is need for more research before this method is widely used for treating neuralgia.
Alternative medicine options such as chiropractic adjustments and acupuncture target trapped nerves and provide relief by reducing the inflammation. Even though there are not enough studies that have proved that these alternative medicine options are effective in treating neuralgia, there are some patients who report pain relief to a certain degree after using these treatment options. Nutritional therapy is another alternative medicine option that helps by balancing the intake of salt ions which are known to affect the neurons. So do not write these treatments off without trying them first.
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