Trigeminal neuralgia is a chronic pain condition coming from the trigeminal nerve. It is more likely to occur in women more often than men at the age of 50 and above. The function of the trigeminal nerve is to supply sensation from your face to your brain. The pain can start near the top of the ear and split towards the eye, cheek and jaw on each side of the face. Trigeminal neuralgia pain usually affects only one side of the face. A mild stimulation to the face such as brushing your teeth or eating, can trigger the trigeminal nerve to cause excruciating pain. The exact cause of Trigeminal pain is still unknown in elderly patients. However, the pain can be caused by an irritation and injury of the trigeminal nerve. Also, patients often experience pain followed by a car accident or a blow to the face. People who suffer from multiple sclerosis or a similar disorder that damages the myelin sheath of Trigeminal nerves are most likely to develop Trigeminal neuralgia. If left untreated, Trigeminal neuralgia pain can progressively worsen over time.
There are two types of Trigeminal neuralgia:
Primary Trigeminal neuralgia– irritation and pain due to the compression of the nerve caused by contact between a healthy blood vessel and the trigeminal nerve at the base of the brain where the nerve enters the brain stem. It is often described as an intensely stabbing, sharp, throbbing, burning or electric shock-like pain
Secondary Trigeminal neuralgia– caused by pressure on the nerve which can be linked to tumors, cysts or facial injuries. The intensity of the pain is usually lower than primary type neuralgia. It is often represented as a constant, aching, burning pain.
How is Trigeminal neuralgia diagnosed and treated?
It is important to seek medical care when experiencing an unusual sharp facial pain. Address your problem to your doctor and identify your symptoms accurately. The doctor will diagnose you based on detailed medical history, description of pain symptoms, and clinical evaluation. Also, your doctor may refer you to a specialist to get physical and neurological examinations. Obtaining accurate diagnosis is crucial because there are many conditions associated with facial pain disorders and cause similar pain symptoms. Treatments for different types of pain may differ, therefore, it is important to find the cause of the pain. Diagnostic imaging tests such as MRI and CAT scan, can detect if a tumor or multiple sclerosis is compressing and affecting the trigeminal nerve.
Patients who are unresponsive to medications or suffer from severe side effects from the medications may undergo surgery. A variety of treatment options for trigeminal neuralgia include:
- Trigeminal neuralgia drug therapy
- Trigeminal Nerve Blocks
- Surgery for Trigeminal Neuralgia
- Microvascular Decompression (MVD) surgery
- Stereotactic radiosurgery
- Acupuncture and other anticonvulsive Medicines
The contents contained within this page are not a substitute for health professionals’ advice, diagnosis, or treatment. We advise that you seek advice from a qualified healthcare practitioner. We fully disclose that any surgical or invasive procedures come with risks.
For more details on how to relieve or treat chronic pain, you can reach out to one of our pain specialists at any of our pain care clinic locations. We establish a caring relationship and provide patients with pain relief when needed the most.