What Is Trigeminal Neuralgia?

Trigeminal neuralgia is chronic irritation that affects a nerve in the face, which carries sensation from your face to the brain. The trigeminal nerve carries the sense of touch and pain from the face, eyes, sinuses and mouth to the brain.

Trigeminal neuralgia usually affects more women than men, and usually affects those over 50 years of age. Doctors may use medications, and sometimes even surgery to relieve the pain and release the pressure on the nerve.

Symptoms of Trigeminal Neuralgia

Trigeminal neuralgia symptoms may include one of these patterns:

  • Extremely painful , sharp electric-like spasms that may last a few seconds to a few minutes.
  • Spontaneous attacks of pain while doing regular daily activities such as talking, brushing your teeth, or chewing.
  • Triggers such as sounds, wind or touch.
  • Pain affecting one side of the face, rarely may it affect both sides of the face.
  • Constant aching or burning pain.
  • Pain is usually in the areas that are supplied by the trigeminal nerve: cheek, jaw, teeth, gums, or lips. Pain in the eyes and forehead are less common.
  • Attacks become more frequent and increase in intensity.
  • Pain, for an unknown reason, isn’t usually felt while sleeping. Knowing this may help physicians pinpoint if it could be a migraine or toothache rather than trigeminal neuralgia.
  • In atypical trigeminal neuralgia, a severe migraine in addition to the sharp electric like spasms may be present.

Treatment for Trigeminal Neuralgia

Medication, which may include muscle relaxers, anti-seizure drugs, and antidepressants to target the inflamed nerve, may be prescribed to those diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia.
In some cases, surgery may be needed to relieve the pressure that is causing the nerve disruption. These surgical options may include:

  • Microvascular decompression – relocating or removing a blood vessel that is in contact with the trigeminal nerve. This is done with a small incision behind the ear on the side of your pain
  • Tumor Removal
  • Gamma Knife Radiosurgery
  • Glycerol injection – the sterile glycerol damages the trigeminal nerve and blocks pain signals
  • Balloon compression.





This page is intended to be educational, but does not take the place of your physician or surgeon’s advice for your specific procedure or treatment. You should always consult with your doctor if you have questions or concerns.

Call Michigan Head & Spine Institute at 248-784-3667.


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