Trigeminal neuralgia is a term used for facial pain which begins in the trigeminal nerve. It usually occurs in people over the age of 50 and affects women more than men. However, it is more common in people who have multiple sclerosis (MS).
- There are two trigeminal nerves running down each side of the face. Each trigeminal nerve has three main branches: the upper branch reaches to the scalp and forehead, the middle branch to the nose, cheek and upper jaw and mouth, and the lower branch reaches the lower jaw and mouth.
- Damage to the myelin sheath protecting the nerve is what causes pain for MS sufferers.
- Pain may be triggered by everyday activities such as eating, brushing teeth, talking, head movement, breeze, air conditioning, hot or cold food, or may come up spontaneously without any trigger.
- Pain can last for a few seconds or up to a few minutes. For some, the pain is constant.
- Some report pain like an electric shock, whereas others report an aching or burning sensation.
- The pain can range from mild to excruciating.
- Flares can last for hours, days, or even months.
- Dental pain or eye pain can sometimes be mistaken for trigeminal neuralgia, so if you experience pain in your mouth or eyes it’s wise to visit your dentist or ophthalmologist.
- Over-the-counter pain medications are not effective for trigeminal neuralgia pain.
- Trigeminal neuralgia is often treated with carbamazepine to begin with. Baclofen may be given to help relax the muscles.
- If medication doesn’t work, surgery may be required to deliberately injure the trigeminal nerve so that it stops sending pain signals.
- It’s estimated that between four and six people living with MS will suffer from trigeminal neuralgia. Usually, they’re over the age of 40.
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