Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) is a disorder of the trigeminal nerve (cranial nerve 5) that causes severe, shooting pain along one side of the face. The trigeminal nerve senses touch, pain, pressure, and temperature. It also helps make saliva and tears.
|The Trigeminal Nerve|
|Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.|
In TN, pain usually lasts for less than a second to a few seconds and may come and go for days, weeks, months, or years. It may go into remission or stop completely for months or years between attacks. Over time, the attacks may become more frequent and more severe.
In most cases, the cause is unknown. In some, it may be caused by an abnormally formed artery or vein near the nerve. The blood vessel can compress the nerve and cause problems. Rarely, TN may occur as a symptom of another underlying disorder, such as:
The main symptom is searing pain on one side of the face. The pain may be felt inside the mouth or in the lips, cheek, chin, nostril, ear, or near the eye. Rarely, pain may occur in the eye or forehead. Twitching or wincing sometimes accompanies the pain.
The pain is typically sudden, severe, and stabbing. Even though the pain is brief, usually less than 2 minutes, it can reoccur hundreds of times a day. Attacks can become totally disabling. They may seem to occur at random or be triggered by extremes of temperature, washing, shaving, touching, or tickling the face. There are usually no symptoms between attacks, except perhaps a dull ache.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may have an electrophysiologic test called a trigeminal reflex test. Other tests, such as a CT scan or MRI scan can take evaluate the head and surrounding structures.
You may be given antiseizure medication to help diagnose the disorder.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include:
Your doctor may recommend:
- Antiseizure medications
- Muscle relaxers
- Nasal sprays
Surgery may be an option if medications fail to relieve symptoms. Microvascular decompression removes an artery or tumor that is pressing on the nerve. Other procedures may be used to cut the trigeminal nerve.
There are no current guidelines to prevent TN.
- Rimas Lukas, MD
- Reviewed: 05/2016
- Updated: 06/02/2014
Please note, not all procedures included in this resource library are available at Henry Ford Allegiance Health or performed by Henry Ford Allegiance Health physicians.
All EBSCO Publishing proprietary, consumer health and medical information found on this site is accredited by URAC. URAC's Health Web Site Accreditation Program requires compliance with 53 rigorous standards of quality and accountability, verified by independent audits. To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at HLEditorialTeam@ebscohost.com.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.