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Trigeminal Neuralgia (Facial Nerve Pain)

Trigeminal Neuralgia Overview

Trigeminal neuralgia causes facial pain.Trigeminal neuralgiadevelops in mid to late life. The condition is the most frequently occurring of all the nerve pain disorders. The pain, which comes and goes, feels like bursts of sharp, stabbing, electric-shocks. This pain can last from a few seconds to a few minutes.

People with trigeminal neuralgia become plagued by intermittent severe pain that interferes with common daily activities such as eating and sleep. They live in fear of unpredictable painful attacks, which leads to sleep deprivation and undereating. The condition can lead to irritability, severe anticipatory anxiety and depression, and life-threatening malnutrition. Suicidal depression is not uncommon.

People often call trigeminal neuralgia "tic douloureux" because of a characteristic muscle spasm that accompanies the pain.

  • The pain comes from one or more branches of the trigeminal nerve-the major carrier of sensory information from the face to the brain.
    • There are 3 branches of the trigeminal nerve: the ophthalmic, maxillary, and mandibular. The pain of trigeminal neuralgia occurs almost exclusively in the maxillary and mandibular divisions.
    • You most commonly feel pain in the maxillary nerve, which runs along your cheekbone, most of your nose, upper lip, and upper teeth. Next most commonly affected is the mandibular nerve, affecting your lower cheek, lower lip, and jaw.
  • In almost all cases, pain will be restricted to one side of your face.
  • Most of the time, doctors cannot identify any disease of the trigeminal nerve or the central nervous system.
  • Trigeminal neuralgia most frequently affects women older than 50 years. The disease occurs rarely in those younger than 30 years. Such cases are usually linked to damage from diseases of central nervous system, for example, multiple sclerosis.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/12/2014
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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Trigeminal Neuralgia »

Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) is a common and potentially disabling pain syndrome, the precise pathophysiology of which remains obscure.

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