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Trigeminal neuralgia: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About trigeminal neuralgia

Trigeminal neuralgia is a painful condition, usually affecting one side of the face. It is an uncommon clinical condition which may arise due to compression of 5th cranial nerve, also known by the name of ‘trigeminal nerve’.

Trigeminal neuralgia: Incidence, age and sex

Trigeminal neuralgia is not a frequently encountered condition. It mainly affects individuals in their 60s, but it may affect an individual at younger age too. It is slightly more common in women as compared to men.

Signs and symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia: Diagnosis

The signs and symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia include brief but intense spells of pain affecting one side of the face. Very rarely, the pain may affect the whole face. The pain is typically sharp, similar to a shock-like sensation, lasting for a few seconds to 2 minutes. The episodes between such spells are fortunately free from pain. Certain activities like talking, shaving, or chewing may trigger these painful spells. Some individuals may also complain of numbness and tingling sensation on the face.

Neurological examination by the physician is generally normal corroborating the diagnosis of trigeminal neuralgia. However, an MRI scan may also be advised to detect any lesion which may be compressing the 5th nerve, resulting in trigeminal neuralgia.

Causes and prevention of trigeminal neuralgia

The exact cause of trigeminal neuralgia is not clear. In most of the cases, no cause has been identified. However traumatic damage to the 5th nerve or compression of the nerve by abnormal blood vessels in the skull may result in trigeminal neuralgia. A neurological disease, multiple sclerosis, may cause trigeminal neuralgia in young individuals.

Trigeminal neuralgia: Complications

Sometimes, the pain in trigeminal neuralgia in quite intense, incapacitating the individual, who may become afraid to eat in anticipation of pain. Sometimes, the pain can be severe enough to disturb sleep. However the condition is mostly distressing and not life-threatening.

Trigeminal neuralgia: Treatment

The primary aim of treatment is to alleviate pain. Anti-convulsant medications like Carbamazepine or skeletal muscle relaxant like Baclofen may be prescribed to reduce pain. Invasive therapies like nerve blocks or nerve decompression technique may also be used for pain relief. In case trigeminal neuralgia results from some artery compression, then the expertise of the neurosurgeon may be needed to surgically decompress the nerve root. Almost all affected individuals find relief with one or the other treatment modality.