What Is the Difference Between Neuralgia and Neuritis?
Neuritis and neuralgia share certain features, so the two terms are often mistakenly used interchangeably. However, they are two distinct medical conditions.
Neuritis is defined as inflammation of the nerves. It does not always progress to neuropathy. The symptoms of neuritis vary depending on the affected nerve(s), and neuritis is not always painful.
Common types of neuritis include the following:
- Facial neuritis, also known as Bell's palsy, involves sudden weakness or paralysis of one side of the face.
- Brachial neuritis typically produces symptoms of pain, weakness, tingling and burning in the shoulder, neck, arms and chest.
- Trigeminal neuritis is often characterized by continual facial pain. The nerve is not necessarily damaged and is able to effectively communicate that there is ongoing insult to the trigeminal nerve.
Neuralgia refers to the severe sharp, stabbing, or burning pain that follows the path of a damaged or irritated nerve. It is possible to experience neuralgia as a result of neuritis. Common types of neuralgia include the following:
- Occipital neuralgia, also known as C2 neuralgia, involves pain in the neck, back of the head, and behind the eyes. Occipital neuralgia is frequently caused by chronic muscle contractions and spondylosis of the cervical spine.
- Trigeminal neuralgia is characterized by episodes of facial pain. It can be caused by neuropathy. When active inflammation ceases, a damaged trigeminal nerve can misfire despite no ongoing insult to the nerve. This results in neuralgia.
- Postherpetic neuralgia is a common complication of shingles. The condition causes burning pain that lasts long after the characteristic rash and blisters of shingles disappear.
Neither condition should be confused with neuropathy, which refers to damage, dysfunction or degeneration of the nerve(s). Neuralgia is a symptom of neuropathy.