Trigeminal Neuralgia is a chronic, pain associated disorder that affects the region of the head and neck innervated by the Trigeminal nerve. This disorder has been found to affect women more commonly than men and is also more likely to be seen in people over the age of 50. It is also called as tic douloureux.
What Causes Trigeminal Neuralgia?
Unfortunately, the exact reason why a person develops Trigeminal neuralgia is still unknown. There are many theories that are suspected, however in a large majority of the cases the exact cause may remain a mystery. Scientists have postulated that an increased pressure on the nerve by aneurisms, nearby blood vessels or even a tumor can lead to Trigeminal Neuralgia. An inflammatory process around the nerve has also been implicated in the etiology of the disease. Such a reaction can be seen in certain systemic disorders like sarcoidosis, multiple sclerosis and Lyme disease.
All of these theories and associations are, however, incomplete and a lot more research is needed into determining the exact chain of events that lead to the causation of Trigeminal Neuralgia.
So what are some of the symptoms that you should look out for, diagnostic tests that can be done, treatment options available and long term prognosis?
Symptoms Of Trigeminal Neuralgia
Trigeminal Neuralgia is a major cranial nerve of the body. It carries both motor and sensory sensations from various parts of the head, face and neck to the brain. The chief complaint of people suffering from Trigeminal Neuralgia is pain. This pain can be felt in various parts of the face along the path of distribution of the nerve. The severity of the pain is also variable, however it has been noted that it increases over a period of time.
These bouts of pain or attacks are on the face, jaws, gums, forehead, around the eyes and the ears. Most patients describe the pain as a sharp electric current, stabbing and piercing in nature that can last for several seconds to a few minutes before subsiding. Frequency of these attacks too increases as the disease progresses.
Some of the more common triggers are shaving, applying makeup, lightly touching the face, exposure to a head wind, brushing the teeth and even swallowing. Most of these triggers are not something that you can easily guard against and so bouts of pain are inevitable. Patients often feel like they are living in fear of the next sudden attack of pain and are unable to enjoy daily activities leading to severe depression and a deterioration of the quality of life.