Understanding Trigeminal Neuralgia

Share Button

Trigeminal NeuralgiaRebound’s board-certified neurosurgery team is equipped with the latest technology to treat a variety of conditions that affect the brain and spine, including trigeminal neuralgia. This chronic pain condition is known for being extremely painful and often debilitating.

Learn more about this condition from our neurosurgery team.

What is Trigeminal Neuralgia?

Trigeminal neuralgia is a condition involving the trigeminal nerve in the face. Most patients with trigeminal neuralgia experience sharp, intense pain in the lower face and jaw.

The trigeminal nerve plays a crucial role as a part of twelve pairs of cranial nerves in the head. It controls sensations in the face- everything from sensations in the eyes and forehead to nostrils, lips and jaw.

What Causes Trigeminal Neuralgia?

Trigeminal neuralgia occurs when pressure is placed on the trigeminal nerve at the base of the brain, typically by a healthy artery or vein. The irritation and pressure placed on the nerve is responsible for the sudden, shock-like surges of pain someone with trigeminal neuralgia experiences.

This pressure damages the protective coating around the trigeminal nerve (the myelin sheath). Multiple sclerosis is sometimes associated with the condition.

While it is less common, a tumor placing pressure on the nerve may also cause the condition in some patients.

Who is at Risk?

The condition is most prevalent among women and those older than 50. However, the condition may happen at any age. Those with a family history of trigeminal neuralgia and those living with multiple sclerosis or hypertension are at a heightened risk.

What are the Common Symptoms?

Extreme, stabbing pain is the most common symptom. Pain usually occurs in the upper and lower jaw first, particularly on one side of the face. The pain is consistently likened to that of an electric shock, which is caused by the nerve misfiring, and may come on suddenly.

Because the pain most commonly occurs in the jaw, it is sometimes mistaken as a result of a dental problem, such as an abscess. Pain attacks are sometimes triggered by touch to the facial area, brushing your teeth, talking and even smiling. Some patients may experience pain in the around the eye, nose or forehead regions.

There are two types of pain associated with trigeminal neuralgia: atypical and classic.
Classic:

  • Pain described as extreme, shock-like, sharp, throbbing and sporadic
  • Periods of remission from pain are common

Atypical:

  • Aching, stabbing, and burning pain that is typically constant, but fluctuates in intensity
  • Migraine-like symptoms
  • Periods of remission are less common
  • Treatment is typically more challenging

Many patients with trigeminal neuralgia will experience symptoms for long stretches of time, and the experience periods of remission or less intense pain.

The condition is very cyclical in nature, and most patients notice an increase in the level of pain and the number of attacks as time progresses, followed by shorter periods of relief. The pain can become debilitating, frequent and cause facial twitching.

How is Trigeminal Neuralgia Treated?

Treatment will of course be based on each individual patient’s circumstances and the severity of the condition. Typically, a Rebound neurosurgeon will first administer nonsurgical treatment in the form of anti-seizure medication. When medication does not improve symptoms, surgery may be recommended. Depending on the patient’s medical history, health and condition, microvascular decompression may be a surgical option.

Learn more about how trigeminal neuralgia treatment options by contacting us today.
Trusted Trigeminal Neuralgia Resources

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke – Trigeminal Neuralgia Fact Sheet

American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) – Trigeminal Neuralgia