A painful, chronic condition that damages the trigeminal nerve in your head, trigeminal neuralgia causes sensation and pain to the meninges, face, mouth, teeth and blood vessels of your head. If you are suffering from trigeminal neuralgia, even the mildest stimulation of your face may result in jolts of unbearable pain.
WHAT IS TRIGEMINAL NEURALGIA?
HOW IS TRIGEMINAL NEURALGIA CAUSED?
The exact cause of trigeminal neuralgia is yet to be found. However, most experts believe that it’s caused by an underlying condition that affects the trigeminal nerve, or due to the compression of this nerve. Trigeminal neuralgia may occur as a result of aging, or multiple sclerosis (or any other similar disorder) that damages the protective coating (myelin sheath) of certain nerves. In some cases, the disease can also occur by a tumor compressing the trigeminal nerve.
HOW DOES THE PAIN FEEL?
The pain caused is jolting, severe, sharp and shock-like. Initially, you may have to experience short, mild attacks. However, over the course of time, the condition can progress and cause long, frequent spells of intense pain. There have even been instances where people with trigeminal neuralgia have suffered numerous attacks each day.
HOW DO I KNOW I HAVE TRIGEMINAL NEURALGIA?
Trigeminal neuralgia may cause one or more of the following symptoms:
- Pain spread in a wide pattern or focused in one spot
- Episodes of severe, jabbing or shooting pain that feels like an electric shock
- Pain in trigeminal nerve areas, including the lips, cheek, gums, jaw, teeth, forehead and eye
- Sudden attacks of pain, or attacks triggered by doing certain actions, such as brushing your teeth, touching your face, speaking and chewing
- Constant burning, aching sensation that is less intense than pain caused by spasms
- Spells of excruciating pain, which lasts a few seconds or several minutes
- Episodes of multiple attacks lasting from days to even months – some patients have periods where no pain is experienced
- Pain affecting only one side of the face, though in some rare cases it can affect both sides
HOW CAN TRIGEMINAL NEURALGIA BE TREATED?
There are multiple surgical, medical and anesthesiologic treatments available to control trigeminal neuralgia. Medications usually used to relieve the pain caused by trigeminal neuralgia include clonazepam, carbamazepine, gabapentin, phenytoin, divalproex sodium and baclofen.
If using medicines don’t work, anesthesiologic treatments, such as radiosurgery and cryoneurolysis can be recommended by your Chicago pain management doctor.