Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) is an extremely painful condition affecting the fifth cranial nerve in the head. Patients frequently describe the pain as “lightning bolts,” “hot fire” and “electric shocks” racing across the cheek, nose, eye, jaw and tongue. Since this large nerve branches into three sections, the condition can also affect the forehead, scalp, teeth and gums. The pain caused by the disorder is life-altering and debilitating. There is no cure for trigeminal neuralgia, but there are treatments that can ease your symptoms.
How Do I Know If I Have Trigeminal Neuralgia?
Trigeminal neuralgia is often seen in people with multiple sclerosis if the disease damages the protective nerve sheath. Pressure from a dilated blood vessel, injury and surgery may also cause the disorder. It is rare for a tumor to cause TN. Sometimes, trigeminal neuralgia has no apparent cause.
You should see a pain specialist immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Sudden, severe pain across your forehead, scalp, cheeks or jaw.
- Pain you would describe as ‘electric’ or ‘stabbing’ in your face.
- Flashes of facial pain when doing daily activities such as brushing your teeth or washing your face.
- Quick, intense pain when your face is touched or when you speak.
- Significant pain when your face is exposed to adverse weather, especially the wind.
You should contact a specialist as soon as possible if you experience a constant ache or burning in any of the areas the nerve crosses. This is a different way the disorder presents itself, but it still may be trigeminal neuralgia.
Treating Trigeminal Neuralgia
Before treating the disorder, your doctor will rule out other causes. Shingles, temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) and other diseases of the nerves can mimic TN. Once they make a diagnosis, the first line of treatment is specialty medication. If medications do not provide sufficient relief, glycerol injection can block pain signals. Where necessary, a surgical procedure called microvascular decompression can relieve compression on the nerve.
If you are suffering from trigeminal neuralgia or other facial pain and have not had satisfactory relief from your symptoms, contact our office today to speak with our specialists.