Trigeminal Neuralgia

What is Trigeminal Neuralgia?

Trigeminal neuralgia is a chronic pain condition that affects the trigeminal nerve, which carries sensation from your face to your brain.

If you have trigeminal neuralgia, even mild stimulation of your face — such as from brushing your teeth or putting on makeup — may trigger a jolt of excruciating pain. This condition affects the 5th cranial nerve called the trigeminal nerve.

What Are The Symptoms?

Trigeminal neuralgia has many symptoms, a person may experience one or more of these symptoms:

  • Episodes of severe, shooting, or jabbing pain that may feel like an electric shock. 
  • Pain that triggers by touching the face, chewing, speaking, or brushing teeth.
  • Spasm-like pain, burning, or aching in the cheek, jaw, teeth, lips, and sometimes eye and forehead.

This condition mostly occurs on one side of the face. Pain can be focused in one spot on the face or widespread. Attacks may become more frequent or the intensity may change over time. Pain can last from a few seconds to several minutes, in very severe cases, an episode of pain can last days, weeks, or months.

What Are The Causes?

In trigeminal neuralgia, the trigeminal nerve’s function is disrupted. Usually, the problem is contact between a normal blood vessel — in this case, an artery or a vein — and the trigeminal nerve at the base of your brain. This contact puts pressure on the nerve and causes it to malfunction.

This trigeminal nerve condition can occur as a result of aging, or related to multiple sclerosis or a similar disorder that damages the myelin sheath protecting certain nerves.

Another cause is by a tumor compressing the trigeminal nerve.

Some people may experience this nerve condition due to a brain lesion or other abnormalities. In other cases, surgical injuries, stroke or facial trauma may be responsible for trigeminal neuralgia.

What Are The Treatments?

Treatments include nerve pain medications such as carbamazapine, baclofen, and Phenytoin. Steroid injections can decrease the inflammation around the nerve. Finally, there are surgical options, these are very invasive for the patient.