Occipital Neuralgia – Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

Are you suffering from persistent headaches? Do you find it painful to stare at bright light when headaches occur? Watch out! You may be having a condition known as Occipital Neuralgia. Read on and get complete Occipital Neuralgia information. Know what is Occipital Neuralgia, its causes, symptoms and treatment.

Occipital Neuralgia Definition

Occipital Neuralgia is a neurological condition marked by persistent pain in the back of the head, behind the eyes and in the upper neck. The disease is also known as Arnold’s neuralgia or C2 neuralgia. It commonly arises in the regions containing the greater and lesser optical nerves.

Symptoms of Occipital Neuralgia

Occipital Neuralgia is usually characterized by pain in the head. The pain can be felt at the back of the neck and spreads to the side of the head. Occipital Neuralgia headache can be followed by tenderness in the scalp and difficulties in the eye.

Occipital Neuralgia Head Symptoms

Pain mainly affects one side of the head. But if both occipital nerves get irritated, pain can originate in both sides of the temple. The skin in scalp gets highly sensitive which makes combing or shampooing hair a painful task.

Occipital Neuralgia Eye Symptoms

Occipital Neuralgia causes extreme light sensitivity and pain behind the eyes. Occipital Neuralgia sufferers have trouble looking at sources of light and even bright environments. In Occipital Neuralgia blurred vision is a common complaint.

Occipital Neuralgia Duration

In some cases, Occipital Neuralgia lasts between 2 and 36 hours. This is especially when the condition is associated to migraine. It generally affects one side of the head though it may also spread to the opposite side.

Causes of Occipital Neuralgia

As aforesaid, Occipital Neuralgia is a health condition that affects the occipital nerves in the rear part of the head. The nerves can be affected due to a number of reasons such as

Trauma

Trauma or injury to the nerves is a major reason behind the development of this condition. This generally arises as a result of a direct blow. In Occipital Neuralgia whiplash injury is regarded to be a prime causative factor.

Spinal Nerve Compression

Health conditions such as Osteoarthritis lead to compression of the spinal nerve and are often a cause of Occipital Neuralgia.

Lesions

Formation of lesions or tumors in the neck is also a causative factor of this condition. Occipital Neuralgia lesions can give rise to several discomforting symptoms.

Vasculitis

This disease gives rise to inflammation of the blood vessels. Swollen blood vessels can be a major cause behind this nervous disorder.

Nerve Compression

Tautness of neck muscles can pinch the nerves and give rise to Occipital Neuralgia in seemingly healthy individuals.

Localized infection or inflammation and other diseases like diabetes or gout can also work as Occipital Neuralgia causes. In many cases however, the disease has been found to arise without any apparent reason.

Occipital Neuralgia Diagnosis

Diagnosis of this disease is mainly carried out with the help of physical examination and taking the patient’s medical history into account. Doctors ask patients about the history of headache as well as other symptoms to make a proper diagnosis.

In some cases, an X-Ray of the spinal column is done to detect the cause of pain. This is generally done if doctors suspect a compression of spinal nerve to be a cause. Use of an anesthetic nerve block is also helpful in confirming the condition.

Occipital Neuralgia Differential Diagnosis

The nature of symptoms makes diagnosing the condition quite difficult in some cases. A battery of Occipital Neuralgia tests is then needed to differentiate the condition from other similar diseases like

  • Cluster headaches
  • Foramen Magnum Tumors
  • Herniated Cervical Intervertebral Disc
  • Uncomplicated Flexion-Extension Injury
  • Metastatic Neoplasm at the base of skull

Treatment for Occipital Neuralgia

Initial cure may be done with the aid of massage therapy, relaxation and rest. In many cases, this kind of treatment is enough to reduce the symptoms or cure the condition completely. For many sufferers of Occipital Neuralgia rest is an effective treatment. Application of heat, muscle relaxing medicines and anti-inflammatory Occipital Neuralgia medications are also useful in curing this condition.

Overall Occipital Neuralgia treatment actually depends on the symptoms it produces.

Swelling of Occipital Nerves is reduced with the aid of anti-inflammatory Occipital Neuralgia medicines like Indometacin, Ibuprofen, Diclofenac and Cox-II inhibitors.

Occipital Neuralgia arising due to stress can be cured with anti-depressant medicines. These are useful in case of acute pain in the head.

Other treatments include use of local nerve blocks and direct steroid injection in the affected area.

Curing Occipital Neuralgia with Nerve Block Injection

An Occipital Neuralgia nerve block typically consists of a mix of local anesthetics like Bupivicaine or Lidocaine and 40-80 mg of a powerful steroid like Methylprednisolone. 5-10 mls of Occipital neuralgia block is injected around the greater occipital nerve region.

Occipital Neuralgia Decompression Surgery

If all other treatments fail to remedy Occipital Neuralgia doctors rely on surgery to rectify this condition. Surgery is performed to correct the compression of the occipital nerves. Occipital Neuralgia surgery shifts the cells compressing the nerves thus curing the symptoms and often the entire condition. Operation can give rise to health risks and is hence used as a last resort in patients who fail to have Occipital Neuralgia cured by other ways.

Occipital Neuralgia Prognosis

Occipital Neuralgia is a benign condition and has an excellent prognosis. In individuals affected with Occipital Neuralgia recovery is usually fast after rest, heat therapy, muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatory medicines.

If you are suffering from symptoms of this disease do not delay treatment. Unless treated in time Occipital Neuralgia will manage to impair your eyesight and cause severe pain in head. It is advised that you get immediate medical attention to get rid of this discomforting condition as fast as possible and bounce back to the pink of health once again.

References:

http://www.wrongdiagnosis.com/o/occipital_neuralgia/intro.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occipital_neuralgia

http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/occipitalneuralgia/occipitalneuralgia.htm

http://wiki.medpedia.com/Occipital_Neuralgia

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/424940_3

http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-occipital-neuralgia.htm

https://health.google.com/health/ref/Pick%E2%80%99s+disease

http://www.ehow.com/way_5279626_occipital-neuralgia-treatment.html

Published on May 9th 2011 by  under Brain and Nerves.
Article was last reviewed on 1st September 2011.

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