Trigeminal neuralgia, also called tic douloureux, is a condition that affects the trigeminal nerve (the 5th cranial nerve), one of the largest nerves in the head. The trigeminal nerve is responsible for sending impulses of touch, pain, pressure, and temperature to the brain from the face, jaw, gums, forehead, and around the eyes.
Trigeminal neuralgia is characterized by a sudden, severe, electric shock-like or stabbing pain typically felt on one side of the jaw or cheek. The disorder is more common in women than in men and rarely affects anyone younger than 50. The attacks of pain, which generally last several seconds and may be repeated one after the other, may be triggered by talking, brushing teeth, touching the face, chewing, or swallowing. The attacks may come and go throughout the day and last for days, weeks, or months at a time, and then disappear for months or years.
Treatment for trigeminal neuralgia typically includes anticonvulsant medications such as carbamazepine or phenytoin. Baclofen, clonazepam, gabapentin, and valproic acid may also be effective and may be used in combination to achieve pain relief. If medication fails to relieve pain, surgical treatment may be recommended.
The disorder is characterized by recurrences and remissions, and successive recurrences may incapacitate the patient. Due to the intensity of the pain, even the fear of an impending attack may prevent activity. Trigeminal neuralgia is not fatal.
Within the NINDS research programs, trigeminal neuralgia is addressed primarily through studies associated with pain research. NINDS vigorously pursues a research program seeking new treatments for pain and nerve damage with the ultimate goal of reversing debilitating conditions such as trigeminal neuralgia. NINDS has notified research investigators that it is seeking grant applications both in basic and clinical pain research.
Since 1980, the ACPA has offered peer support and education in pain management skills to people with pain, family and friends, and health care professionals. The information and tools on our site can help you to better understand your pain and work more effectively with your health care team toward a higher quality of life.
The Facial Pain Association (FPA) formerly known as the Trigeminal Neuralgia Association (TNA), a non-profit, 501(c)(3) volunteer organization, was founded in 1990 by a team of people who were profoundly grateful for recovery from years of disabling trigeminal neuralgia pain. The organization now assists thousands of others around the world. FPA has emerged as the world’s leading resource for information and health care guidance for all people suffering from neuropathic facial pain. Both patients and healthcare professionals benefit from its programs of education, personal support, and research.
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