Trigeminal neuralgia is a nerve disorder that causes a stabbing or electric-shock-like pain in parts of the face.
The pain of trigeminal neuralgia comes from the trigeminal nerve. This nerve carries the feelings of touch and pain from the face, eyes, sinuses, and mouth to the brain.
The condition usually affects adults, but it can affect anyone at any age.
Trigeminal neuralgia may be caused by:
Often, no cause is found.
Doctors are more likely to find a cause in a person who is younger than age 40.
Symptoms may include any of the following:
Painful attacks of trigeminal neuralgia can be triggered by common, everyday activities, such as brushing teeth, chewing, drinking, eating, touching the face, or shaving.
A brain and nervous system (neurologic) examination is usually normal.
Tests that are done to look for the cause may include:
Your primary care physician, a neurologist, or a pain specialist may be involved in your care.
Certain medicines sometimes help reduce pain and the rate of attacks. These medicines include:
Some patients may need surgery to relieve pressure on the nerve. Techniques include:
How well you do depends on the cause of the problem. If there is no disease causing the problem, treatment can provide some relief.
In some persons, the pain becomes constant and severe.
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Singla A. Trigeminal neuralgia. In: Frontera WR, Silver JK, Rizzo TD, eds. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2008:chap 90.
Zhou Y. Principles of pain management. In: Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, eds. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 44.
Updated by: Joseph V. Campellone, M.D., Division of Neurology, Cooper University Hospital, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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