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Everything You Need to Know about Cranial Neuropathy

Keeping up with your busy lifestyle can be difficult and having any type of headache does not make it any easier. Headaches are for the most part pretty common, however, they could mean something other than stress, lack of rest, or too much time looking at a computer screen. Headaches can be caused by damaged nerves which could mean cranial neuropathy. 

Cranial Neuropathy

Cranial neuropathy is a condition that causes nerve damage and affects your ability to feel and move and can develop for several reasons. There are various types and symptoms for each of the different types of cranial neuropathy. 

Generally speaking, cranial neuropathy is not life-threatening and can get better on its own. It still needs to be closely monitored and any doctor recommendations must be followed. Unfortunately, this condition can’t be fully prevented but some measures can be taken to help manage symptoms. 

Cranial Commotion

Although headaches can be associated with a cranial neuropathy, there are different types of this condition and each has its own set of symptoms. This is because each type is based on which nerves are damaged and where they are located. 

Some common symptoms exhibited by all types of neuropathies include:

  • Pain

  • A tingling sensation

  • Numbness

  • Skin that feels sensitive to the touch

  • Weak or paralyzed muscles. This can cause drooling or slurred speech.

  • Vision changes

The following are more specific variations of neuropathy as well as the symptoms they induce:

  • Bell palsy can cause drooping of part of the face but usually affects only one side of the face.

  • Microvascular cranial nerve palsy can cause double vision, droopy eyelid, and other problems with eyesight.

  • Third nerve palsy can cause an eyelid to sag and droop, double vision, trouble moving the eye, and a pupil that is bigger than normal.

  • Fourth nerve palsy causes the eye or eyes to turn abnormally and sometimes makes you see double which may force you to tilt your head when looking.

  • Sixth nerve palsy can cause abnormal movement of the eye and double vision.

These are the most common types of cranial neuropathy but there are other types as well. Part of the reason why this condition is so complicated is because of all the different variations of this condition. 

Neuropathy Causes

Although there are major differences between each type of cranial neuropathies, the actual causes are generally the same across the board. Cranial neuropathies are caused by damage to one or more cranial nerves, these are the nerves that arise directly from the brain and affect movement and sensation in the eyes and face. Poorly controlled diabetes or high blood pressure, head injuries, infections, strokes, and brain tumors are also common causes of this condition.

Neuropathy Diagnosis

A healthcare provider will usually do a variety of tests to diagnose neuropathy. Depending on the type of cranial neuropathy your doctor suspects.

Tests may include:

  • Neurological exam to test sensation, reflexes, balance, and mental status.

  • Electromyography (EMG) measures the electrical activity of muscles when working and at rest.

  • CT or MRI scans are imaging techniques that allow healthcare providers to see the brain.

  • Nerve conduction velocity tests to help find out how and where the nerve is damaged.

  • Biopsies of the skin and nerves to find out how severely nerves are damaged.

  • Hearing tests

  • Angiography is a special X-ray that uses contrast dye and takes pictures of your heart and blood vessels.

Is There Treatment?

Many types of neuropathies will get better with time, without any treatment. Sometimes medicines can be used to treat an infection, help reduce swelling in or near a nerve, or help if the neuropathy is causing pain. For some types of neuropathies and in some cases, surgery may be needed but is not common. Other times, the nerve damage can’t be treated or repaired.

It’s important to diagnose and treat any health conditions that are causing neuropathy. Treating common causes like high blood pressure, infections, and diabetes can help to treat neuropathy. Eating nutritious foods, avoiding smoking, and limiting alcohol can also help manage neuropathy.  

If the symptoms do not go away on their own, you may be recommended physical therapy, occupational therapy, or other options to help with them.

The following are more specific treatments, consider the following: 

  • Anticonvulsants are medications that are quite effective in treating nerve pain, including trigeminal neuralgia when taken on an ongoing basis.

  • Microvascular Decompression (MVD), also known as the Jannetta procedure, is a surgical procedure to relieve cranial neuropathy symptoms

  • Gamma Knife Perfexion Radiosurgery is one of the most precise, powerful, and proven treatments for brain disorders, including cranial neuropathy.

  • Supra Orbital & Infra Orbital Peripheral Nerve Stimulation is a new modulatory technique that has value in patients with neuralgias that are not consistent with trigeminal neuralgia.

  • Percutaneous Glycerol Rhizotomy is a minimally-invasive procedure that is an ablative procedure that disrupts the pain pathway of the trigeminal nerve, thus relieving the pain.

Other possible options, such as surgery, may be available as well if cranial neuropathy is affecting your quality of life. 

What Integrated Pain Management Can Do For You

All the treatments mentioned can be administered at Integrated Pain Management. Our team is dedicated to helping patients get well, whether it be through conservative treatments or surgery. Whatever option fits your needs we will provide it. Our able team will develop a treatment plan tailored to your needs. Cranial Neuropathy is a complex and debilitating condition, but with the right approach, we can get you back to the activities and people you love. 

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