Trigeminal neuralgia is also known as tic douloureux. It is a chronic pain condition that affects the trigeminal nerve found in the face (hence, the term “trigeminal” neuralgia). The trigeminal nerve is responsible for carrying sensation from your face to your brain. Patients who have trigeminal neuralgia can feel severe pain from mild stimulation, such as from simply eating or drinking. Patients can also experience short and mild pain attacks that can become longer and more frequent over time.
Treatment can help, but in some cases there is not a known cause. This condition is more common among women who are over the age of 50 years. It can last for years or can last a lifetime. Here we will examine the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for trigeminal neuralgia. Please note that I am not a doctor, though this article has undergone research to try to provide accurate and updated information. Reach out to your doctor in order to receive a correct diagnosis and information.
If you believe you are experiencing pain similar to trigeminal neuralgia, contact your doctor. Talk to your doctor if this pain lasts for a certain amount of time and occurs in the face.
Symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia tend to follow a certain pattern. As previously mentioned, trigeminal neuralgia can cause pain in the face from mild stimulation. The pain usually occurs on the side of the face and can feel like electric shocks. Patients can experience bouts of pain that only last a short amount of time. However, the condition can progress in which the attacks can last up to weeks or months and can feel longer and more frequent. Here is a simplified list of what these symptoms can look like:
- pain that feels like electric shocks
- pain that usually happens on one side of the face
- attacks of pain caused by mild stimulation that can last for only a few seconds or minutes
- attacks that last longer and become more frequent
As previously mentioned, the exact cause of trigeminal neuralgia may be unknown in some cases. However, there is some information concerning how trigeminal neuralgia works:
- Pressure on the trigeminal nerve: A swollen blood vessel or tumor that comes into contact with the trigeminal nerve can put pressure on the nerve, causing it break down.
- Multiple sclerosis: Trigeminal neuralgia can be related to multiple sclerosis or other conditions related to the damaging of the myelin sheath. The myelin sheath is what protects and surrounds the nerves, so when this gets damaged it can lead to a condition similar to trigeminal neuralgia.
- Aging: Trigeminal neuralgia can be related to aging. Women who are older in age are more likely to be diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia than men.
- Other cases: In other cases, people can experience trigeminal neuralgia from a brain lesion or other conditions. Other reasons may include: surgical injuries, facial trauma, or other injuries related to the brain.
Everyday activities can trigger pain. Mild stimulation to the face can cause pain, such as:
- putting on makeup
- brushing your teeth
- washing or wiping the face
- a breeze on the face
Depending on your condition, your doctor may recommend a different treatment option than the ones listed below. There are several treatment options, including medication and surgery. Usually, people tend to start with medication, but their condition may worsen over time and require surgery.
Your doctor can prescribe you medications to help relieve the pain and reduce the amount of attacks. Anti-seizure or anticonvulsants may be an option, such as: carbamazepine, oxcarbazepine, lamotrigine, phenytoin, clonzaepam, or gabapentin. This type of medication can help block nerve firing. Also, medication can act as muscle-relaxing agents and tricyclic antidepressants.
There are several surgical options to help treat the symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia:
- Glycerol Injections: This is a rhyzotomy procedure, which involves the destroying of nerve fibers to reduce pain. Other rhyzotomy procedures include balloon compression and radiofrequency thermal lesioning.
- Gamma-Knife Radiosurgery: This is a more precise option that involves a focused amount of radiation to destroy the trigeminal nerve. This method is similar to stereotactic radiosurgery.
- Microvascular Decompression: During this procedure, your doctor will perform brain surgery to relocate or remove blood vessels that are putting pressure on the trigeminal root.
Living with trigeminal neuralgia can be painful and difficult, but there are treatment options to help relieve the symptoms as listed above. This condition can not only impact your physical well-being, but also your mentality. Speak to your doctor for possible solutions that can help.