Neuralgia is the pain in a nerve or a distribution of nerves. There are different types of this condition that affect nerves in different parts of the body. People with neuralgia often find even the mildest stimulation can trigger a shock of pain. Unfortunately, as the condition progresses, patients experience longer and more frequent bouts of pain. This condition is more common in women than in men, and it’s also more likely to occur in people 50 or older. Often, doctors can manage symptoms effectively with injections, medications, or even surgery.
Muscle Weakness and Spasms
Some people with neuralgia experience facial pain. The pain has a varied nature and any pressure applied to the area may aggravate the sensation. Although neuralgia doesn’t typically affect the functionality of the affected area, symptoms can include muscle weakness and spasms. In rare cases, patients experience complete paralysis of the nerves that control the muscles in the affected area. Symptoms of neuralgia start when a blood vessel presses on the nerve and damages its protective coating.
Numbness or tingling
Right before the pain starts to develop, you may feel numbness or tingling in your face, head or neck. Then, the nerve begins to transmit pain signals to your brain, and you start feeling pain. One cause of neuralgia is the formation of blood vessels. This cause can be inherited, so it’s best to check your family history if you experience this or any of the other symptoms.
Feeling the intermittent but mild pain
Pain is the most common symptom of neuralgia. You may feel intermittent but mild pain in the affected area. The bouts of pain last anywhere from a few seconds to a couple of minutes. Although some people experience several, long-lasting attacks, others have periods when they don’t feel any pain. Aging can prompt the condition, as can disorders that damage the myelin sheath or protective coating around the nerve.
Sudden attacks of pain
People with neuralgia can experience sudden attacks of pain generally triggered by things that aren’t normally painful such as speaking, chewing, or touching the affected area. Diseases like multiple sclerosis can cause the onset of these symptoms, as can injury. Also, people who have diabetes may also develop neuralgia if they experience nerve damage due to excess glucose.
Pain spasms or cluster attacks
We’ve talked about intermittent pain spasms. In other cases, people may experience cluster attacks. These attacks last longer but patients are usually pain-free in the time between the attacks. Often, what caused the neuralgia is unknown, but as mentioned, pressure on the nerve may come from tumors, aneurysms, or nearby blood vessels. Inflammation may also cause the condition and its symptoms.
Pain in the trigeminal nerve area
You may also feel pain where the branches of the nerve might reach. In this case, these areas include the jaw, teeth, gums, cheeks, lips, eyes, and forehead. Usually, patients only feel pain on one side of the face. In some cases, though, pain is felt on both sides. Furthermore, the pain may focus on a single spot or radiate across a broader area.
Severe feelings of pain
As the condition progresses, you might start experiencing more severe pain. You may have to deal with episodes of jabbing, searing or shooting pain that feel like shocks of electricity. As the severity of the neuralgia increases, the frequency of the attacks may increase, too. For some people, touching a certain part of the face will trigger the pain. Simple actions can bring on the symptoms, including eating, drinking, touching your face, applying makeup, and more.
Pain that doesn’t go away
Another symptom that may indicate neuralgia is that the pain doesn’t go away. Some people first feel a burning, aching sensation which eventually evolves into the spasm-like pain usually associated with the condition. An infection can also cause neuralgia. You might not even be aware of an infection of your trigeminal nerve or any nearby nerve until you begin to experience pain. As you age, the likelihood of developing such infections increases.
Pain only occurs while awake
We’ve already discussed different kinds of neuralgia-related pain. Each attack may last for a couple of seconds to a couple of minutes, and you may not feel pain in the time between those attacks. Unfortunately, the fear of the pain often keeps afflicted patients awake at night. It’s important to note, though, that neuralgia attacks only happen when you’re awake.
More causes of neuralgia
The intense and sudden pain spasms in various parts of the face are classic signs of neuralgia. Aside from the causes we’ve already mentioned, brain lesions and other cerebral abnormalities may also cause neuralgia.