Trigeminal Neuralgia: The basics

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.

Trigeminal neuralgia affects women more often than men, and it's more likely to occur in people who are older than 50.

Causes:

In trigeminal neuralgia, also called tic douloureux (painful tic), 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.

Trigeminal neuralgia can occur as a result of aging, or it can be related to multiple sclerosis or a similar disorder that damages the myelin sheath protecting certain nerves. Trigeminal neuralgia can also be caused by a tumor compressing the trigeminal nerve.

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

Common symptoms:

You may initially experience short, mild attacks. But trigeminal neuralgia can progress and cause longer, more-frequent bouts of searing pain.

Trigeminal neuralgia symptoms may include one or more of these patterns:

  • Episodes of severe, shooting or jabbing pain that may feel like an electric shock.
  • Spontaneous attacks of pain or attacks triggered by things such as touching the face, chewing, speaking or brushing teeth.
  • Bouts of pain lasting from a few seconds to several minutes.
  • Episodes of several attacks lasting days, weeks, months or longer — some people have periods when they experience no pain.
  • Constant aching, burning feeling that may occur before it evolves into the spasm-like pain of trigeminal neuralgia.
  • Pain in areas supplied by the trigeminal nerve, including the cheek, jaw, teeth, gums, lips, or less often the eye and forehead.
  • Pain affecting one side of the face at a time, though may rarely affect both sides of the face.
  • Pain focused in one spot or spread in a wider pattern.
  • Attacks that become more frequent and intense over time.

Is it fatal?

Trigeminal neuralgia pain is exceptionally severe. Although the condition is not life-threatening, the intensity of the pain can be debilitating. Relief is possible: Medical and surgical treatments can bring the pain under control, especially when managed by an expert physician and surgeon.

Is there a cure/treatment?

Because of the variety of treatment options available, having trigeminal neuralgia doesn't necessarily mean you're doomed to a life of pain. Doctors usually can effectively manage trigeminal neuralgia with medications, injections or surgery, these being in order of what might be chosen as treatment depending on the severity of the case and each individual's case.

In the next posts about this topic we will go more in depth about the different things that can trigger this pain and the different things we can do in our everyday lives to not let it be an impediment to enjoy life to the fullest. Either way, remember to reach out to an expert for professional treatment and to friends and family for emotional support, these two make a powerful combination towards finally getting better.

For more information feel free to contact us at (786) 871 6854 or write to us, we will happily help you in any way we can. You can also visit us at www.jvaleriomd.com to get more information about the location of our clinics in Miami.

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