Pain protects us from damage to the body – for example when we come close to a source of heat such as a fire, we withdraw our hands to prevent damaging our skin. Nerve pain or neuropathic pain has no function, but is a consequence of damage to the nervous system. That damage can generate in the brain, the spinal cord or the nerve tracts.
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Nerve pain can suddenly appear without reason, but can also be the consequence of a viral infection (shingles), an operation or a trapped nerve after an accident. Diabetics can also suffer from nerve pain as a result of their condition. The pain generated can also be experienced in different ways: for some, nerve pain comes and goes, for others the pain is continuous. Nerve pain can feel like a severe, burning, shooting or stinging pain. Besides pain, a damaged nerve can also affect the blood flow to parts of the body.
Treatments of nerve pain
Carbamazepine belongs to the anti-epileptic drugs and is the preferred choice for many types of nerve pain. As such, carbamazepine will usually be prescribed by the doctor as a first choice.
For diabetics, it is essential to have the treatment of the condition under control, and doctors will prescribe amitriptyline for severe nerve pain as a consequence of diabetes or shingles infection. Amitriptyline belongs to a group called tricyclic anti- depressants, but the drug works a lot faster for nerve pains than to treat depression as a much lower dose is needed to be effective for nerve pains than to treat depression.
Normal painkillers (paracetamol) are preferred for pressure pain (as a consequence of a hernia for example). If normal painkillers do not work, doctors can prescribe tramadol – a painkiller which (partially) blocks pain signals to the brain. The pain is then experienced as less heavy.