What is trigeminal neuralgia?
Trigeminal neuralgia is one of the most common causes of sudden and severe pain in parts of the face. It is caused by a problem with the trigeminal nerve, which is a nerve that is responsible for sensation in the face. There are many causes such as tumor, multiple sclerosis or by the blood vessels putting pressure on the trigeminal nerve but usually the cause is not known. The nerve “misfires” causing pain in the face. It affects people mostly above the age of 50, although it can happen at younger ages and in children. Females are slightly more affected than males.
Trigeminal neuralgia is characterized by very short attacks, on one side of the face, that come and go. The pain is often described as electric like shocks, or sharp stabbing pain located in the cheek, lower face or around the eye that last a few seconds to a few minutes. Often, certain movements can trigger the pain attacks, these include: touching the face, chewing, talking, brushing your teeth, smiling, or even cold air on your face. These attacks can be debilitating and last for weeks or months before resolving.
There is no specific test that can diagnose this condition. It is a clinical diagnosis, meaning, your doctor will diagnose this based on your description of the attacks along with a neurological examination.
The medications that are commonly used to treat this condition are antiepileptics, which are also used to treat seizures. The most common one is Carbamazepine (Tegretol), which helps to quiet down the pain. Other antiepileptic medications such as Gabapentin, Lamotrigine or medications to help with the spasm, like Baclofen, can be tried if Tegretol is not helpful. Patients who do not have success with medications, may be candidates for surgical procedures or radiosurgery. Your doctor can discuss these with you if they are required.
1. Trigeminal neuralgia is a disorder of of the trigeminal nerve which is the nerve that is responsible for sensation in the face
2. Most of the time the cause of trigeminal neuralgia is not known.
3. It causes severe shock-like pain in the the face..jaw, cheek or forehead and eye.
4. There are a number of medications that are effective in stopping the pain and if not, surgery or radiosurgery may be an option