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What is Trigeminal Neuralgia?

Updated on April 20, 2015

A Pain to be Reckoned With

Often considered one of the worst types of pain one can have, trigeminal neuralgia is a chronic pain condition that is characterized by bouts of intense pain in the face. The pain is felt in and around the jaw area of the face and can be triggered by any movement of the mouth or even something as minor as a slight breeze. The pain can range from milder bouts that last only a couple of seconds to extremely excruciating pain that can last up to two minutes. Trigeminal neuralgia affects women more than men and usually does not occur until after the age of 50. This page will explore the condition further, from symptoms to treatment, so stay here for further information.

Photo Credit: permission to use from clker.com


Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Symptoms of Trigeminal Neuralgia

Symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia vary from person to person. One individual may experience occasional twinges of minor pain whereas another person may have episodes of very severe, shooting pain that feel somewhat like a electrical shocks. The spontaneous attacks of pain can be triggered by the slightest of movements of the mouth or the gentlest touch to the face. The pain is felt only on one side of the face near the trigeminal nerve. This includes areas such as the cheek, jaw, gums, lips, and sometimes even the forehead or eye. Each episode of pain can last from one quick second to an agonizing two full minutes. These spontaneous bouts of pain may go away for months or even years, only to show up even worse later on. It is recommended that you see a doctor if regular over-the-counter pain relievers are not working for you.

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Causes of Trigeminal Neuralgia

Click on picture for credit info (creative commons) and to read about the trigeminal nerve
Click on picture for credit info (creative commons) and to read about the trigeminal nerve

Trigeminal neuralgia happens when the trigeminal nerve's function gets disrupted. Usually this occurs when a blood vessel begins to press onto the nerve at the base of the brain, putting pressure on the nerve and causing it to malfunction and fire off pain signals. The condition can also be caused because the blood vessel can eventually wear away at the insulating membrane surrounding the nerve, also causing it to malfunction and send out pain signals to the brain. Trigeminal neuralgia be the result of aging or it can be related to multiple sclerosis or other disorders that damage the membrane that protects certain nerves.

Trigeminal Neuralgia... - ...explained very thoroughly

This video is somewhat lengthy but warrants watching for a more in-depth look at trigeminal neuralgia.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Trigeminal Neuralgia

Photo Credit: National Cancer Institute, via Wikimedia Commons
Photo Credit: National Cancer Institute, via Wikimedia Commons

As previously mentioned, you should see your doctor as soon as possible if the pain you are experiencing is not being alleviated with over-the-counter pain medications. Unfortunately, there are really no tests that detect the condition with 100 percent certainty. However, an MRI will usually show what is irritating the trigeminal nerve, so this procedure is usually prescribed by doctors if trigeminal neuralgia is suspected.

Treatment options that are considered include medication, surgery, and injections. The type of treatment you undergo once you have been diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia will largely depend on how severe your pain is, how debilitating the pain is, your age and a number of other factors. Medicines that are used to treat the condition include ones that are often used to control and alleviate chronic pain, such as anti-depressant medication or anti-seizure medication.

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    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      I had an aunt with trigeminal neuralgia. You could tell by her expression how much pain she was in when the pain struck.

    • merfzel profile image
      Author

      merfzel 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      @amyboosimpson: It must be difficult to deal with... glad you feel better though! Thanks for visiting!

    • profile image

      amyboosimpson 4 years ago

      I have this condition, It is awful.... though now iv got my treatment sorted its a lot better. A well rounded article.

    • Susan Zutautas profile image

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Very interesting. I'd never heard of this condition before.