What is trigeminal neuralgia?

Trigeminal neuralgia is a neurological disease in which irritation or pressure on the trigeminal nerve (the fifth cranial nerve exiting the skull) pathway causes a stabbing pain in the cheek, eye, and lower part of the face. The pain is usually located on only one side of the face. In addition to pain, there may be tingling and numbness. Trigeminal neuralgia is more common in people older than 50 years of age, in women, and in people who have multiple sclerosis.

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Trigeminal neuralgia commonly results from pressure exerted on the trigeminal nerve by a swollen blood vessel. However, any structure, such as a tumor or swelling that irritates or compresses the trigeminal nerve, may cause trigeminal neuralgia. Risk factors include exposure to chemicals or diseases that impair the nervous system.

The signs and symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia can last from hours to days. However, the duration and course of the disease vary from person to person. Some people with trigeminal neuralgia have symptoms that occur infrequently and are not severe, whereas others may have symptoms that are so severe and frequent that they interfere with normal daily activities.

Fortunately, trigeminal neuralgia can be treated successfully with analgesics (pain medicines) and pain-reducing therapies. In some cases, surgical procedures may be performed to relieve pressure on the trigeminal nerve involved.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911), if you, or someone you are with, experience serious symptoms, such as double or blurred vision; confusion or loss of consciousness for even a brief moment; sudden weakness on one side of the body; or numbness or tingling in the arms or legs, as these may be signs of stroke.

Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for trigeminal neuralgia, but your symptoms recur or are persistent.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia?

Trigeminal neuralgia causes pain that can be severe in the area supplied by the trigeminal nerve of the face. The symptoms vary in intensity from person to person. Everyday activities such as chewing or brushing teeth can precipitate an attack of the pain.... Read more about trigeminal neuralgiasymptoms

CAUSES

What causes trigeminal neuralgia?

Trigeminal neuralgia has various causes, but in some cases the cause is not known. The most common cause is pressure exerted on the trigeminal nerve from a nearby blood vessel. Other possible causes are injury resulting in inflammation and damage to the trigeminal region, ultimately causing nerve irritation and pain. Less commonly, trigeminal neuralgia may result from impingement, entrapment or “pinching” of the nerve root in the neck, sometimes associated with pressure from a tumor. Trigeminal neuralgia also is associated with multiple sclerosis due to damage of the myelin sheath (protective lining around the nerve).... Read more about trigeminal neuralgiacauses

TREATMENTS

How is trigeminal neuralgia treated?

Treatment for trigeminal neuralgia begins with seeking medical care from your health care provider. To determine if you have trigeminal neuralgia, your health care provider may ask you to undergo diagnostic tests and provide blood samples for laboratory tests.... Read more about trigeminal neuralgiatreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Brain and Nerves