Trigeminal Neuralgia

What Is Trigeminal Neuralgia?

Trigeminal neuralgia a disorder of the fifth cranial (trigeminal) nerve that causes episodes of intense, stabbing, electric shock-like pain in the areas of the face where the branches of the nerve are distributed – lips, eyes, nose, scalp, forehead, upper jaw, and lower jaw.

Classic symptoms of Trigeminal Neuralgia include:

  • Pain is described as lancinating – (sharp)
  • Pain comes and goes (intermittent)
  • Pain must be in the distribution of the trigeminal nerve
  • There has to be triggers
  • There is remission

A valuable clue to the diagnosis is the triggering of the pain with certain activities. Chewing, talking, smiling, or drinking cold or hot fluids may trigger Trigeminal Neuralgia pain. Touching, shaving, brushing teeth, blowing the nose, or cold/warm breeze also may bring on an attack.

Treatment:

Treatment for trigeminal neuralgia includes anticonvulsant medications such as carbamazepine or phenytoin. Baclofen, clonazepam, gabapentin, and valproic acid may also be effective and may be used in combination to achieve pain relief.

If medication fails to relieve pain, more active treatment may be recommended: microvascular decompression; balloon compression; radiofrequency lesion of the nerve, fine-beacon radiotherapy; or surgical exploration of the nerve. Pain relief is achieved in a high percentage of cases but in a significant number of cases pain may recur after some time, and some instances of temporary or permanent numbness in areas of the face have resulted.

Extracts taken from Trigeminal Neuralgia Association Australia Incorporated and Brain Foundation Australia. For more information, visit http://www.tnaaustralia.org.au and http://brainfoundation.org.au/medical-info/59-trigeminal-neuralgia