Neuropathy & Nuralgia
The term used normally to describe any disease process that affects the peripheral nerves is Neuropathy. The symptoms of such processes would involve muscle weakness and changes in sensation such as numbness.
Neuropathymay be short term or long term, occasionally leading to irreversible damage. There are many systemic conditions, which can cause neuropathies, Diabetes is the most common, others can include vitamin deficiencies.
Neuropathy involving superficial nerves usually results from trauma. In Carpal Tunnel Syndrome the neuropathy results from compression. There may be one nerve affected or sometimes many, this is then called Polyneuropathy. Blood tests to exclude deficiencies and Diabetes are usually undertaken.
Electromyleograms and nerve conduction tests are also useful in diagnosis. Neuralgia on the other hand is irritation of the nerve due to inflammation and/or pressure. It is often used to describe acute facial pain associated with dental problems or where a virus has inflamed the nerve as in Trigeminal Neuralgia.
In both cases treatment is directed at the cause, usually involving medication, occasionally surgery in the case of compression problems.
Neuralgia normally is short lived but unfortunately some people can have problems for months and it is sometimes useful to try a mild antidepressant or antiepileptic drug to work on the chemical pathways blocking pain in the brain. If pain is specific to one nerve and the area located, sometimes a nerve block ( injecting an anaesthetic into the nerve ) is helpful.
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