Conditions

Have You Been Diagnosed with Trigeminal Neuralgia?

Source: Mayo Clinic
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The trigeminal nerve in the human body is also known as the fifth cranial nerve. This is because it is one of the main nerves of the face (each side having one) and they further divide into three branches mainly known as the ophthalmic, maxillary and mandibular branch.


They are responsible for carrying the sensations of pain and touch towards the brain from areas such as the teeth, mouth and other facial parts. When neuralgia occurs, even a mild sensation (like that of brushing your teeth) leads to severe and intense pain.


Have you been diagnosed with Trigeminal Neuralgia? Here’s what you should know!

Causes of Trigeminal Neuralgia

In 90% of reported cases, the reason is the contact or pressure of an artery or vein on these nerves resulting in malfunction.

In rare occasions, it might occur due to some underlying abnormality like a tumor, abnormality in the skull's base and even multiple sclerosis.

Symptoms

Pain


The literal meaning of neuralgia is pain originating from a nerve, and the pain from this disease occurs in jolts. The said pain tends to be very severe. Commonly, second and third branches are affected leading to the onset of pain mostly around the jaw, the cheek or even both. 

Instances of pain in and around the forehead aren't high as the nerve in this area isn't commonly affected. It generally occurs on one side and rarely on both sides. Pain is sharp. It has been compared to being pierced by a knife in quick successions.


The frequency tends to vary. The pain's interval might be of second, minutes or even days. After one jolt a dull ache remains in the affected area which soon vanishes. Take note that constant pain is never a symptom of trigeminal neuralgia.


Trigger-point pain


There are specific areas on the face which upon touch or even a waft of air triggers sharp pain in patients. It makes even the routine tasks like shaving and eating difficult.

Treatment options

Medicines for trigeminal neuralgia


Carbamazepine, which is being used to treat epilepsy has the effect of quieting the nerve impulses so, it usually works well against this disease too. The dose varies from person to person as it is dependent upon the intensity of pain.


Other drugs being used also work by quietening nerve impulses. They include baclofen, gabapentin, oxcarbazepine, or lamotrigine. A combination of the drugs mentioned (not more than two) is used in case one does not help. Regular painkillers are not effective when treating neuralgia.


Deep brain stimulation


In the case of severe ailment, an electrical pulse is delivered to a specific part of the brain via a probe. MRI and CT scan are used to optimize placement. With this being a new technique, risks are still under investigation.


Surgical options for treatment


In case, medication does not help, two types of surgeries are recommended:


Decompression surgery


The pressure on the nerve is removed by brain surgery resulting in long-term positive results. It involves general anesthesia. The base of the nerve inside the brain is targeted.


Ablative surgical treatments


Also known as stereotactic radio-surgery as it destroys the nerve root by targeting it. Relatively much easier with lesser risks but is a short-term treatment.