Trigeminal Neuralgia (TN) also called Tic Doloureux is thought to be one of the most painful conditions known to medicine. It is characterized by sudden and severe stabbing, bursts of shock like or electrical pain usually on one side of the face. The pain can be triggered by simple activities like brushing teeth, eating and drinking or talking.
Pain attacks can come and go and can go into remission for long periods of time, from days to weeks to years. Atypical TN, a less common form of the condition, has an aching and burning component to it; sometimes both are experienced. In addition, TN can be a consequence of Multiple Sclerosis.
TN is a disorder of the fifth cranial nerve called the trigeminal nerve. The nerve is located in three branches on each side of the face: the eye, forehead and nose; the cheek and the jaw. Compression on a blood vessel can be a cause of TN. However there is more than one kind of TN and in reality the causes of TN are not fully understood.
TN is most usual after the age of 50 but people of all ages can suffer from it including infants and children. It is thought to be more common in women. In most people it’s restricted to one branch of the nerve on one side of the face, but there are cases of bilateral TN where pain attacks can occur on both sides of the face in different branches of the nerve.
Many people with TN in the jaw mistakenly seek dental treatment as symptoms lead them to conclude it’s a dental problem. In fact, what is needed is a referral to a neurologist for diagnosis and treatment.
Known as “the Suicide Disease”, TN is excruciatingly painful but is not fatal and, as a consequence of the acute pain episodes sufferers live with the fear of attack if the condition is not well managed.
Trigeminal Neuralgia affects the nerves of the face and it is not viral. It does not affect other parts of the body (just the trigeminal nerve), Trigeminal Neuralgia does not spread, and Trigeminal Neuralgia is not treatable by antibiotics.
Causes of Trigeminal Neuralgia
The disease is caused in a virtually unknown way, as it manifests itself often at birth and is with a child their entire life, causing major nervous system problems and other issues. For that reason, it is largely seen as having genetic causes and other major problems to people who have these significant issues related to Trigeminal Neuralgia, and it can be a very difficult thing to overcome in due time for those who are struggling with the disease or disorder.
The disorder is additionally a risk for people who do not have an immunization against certain issues, as well as people who have recently traveled to or are currently living in an area that has experienced a problem, and often times in people with genetic issues that lead to problems surrounding nerve endings in their face and around their head and neck area. Outbreaks can still occur in the developed world, too, where polio can be brought back from a third-world country and cause an outbreak among Americans and Canadians quite easily.
Symptoms of Trigeminal Neuralgia
The diagnosis is made on history and can often be confirmed by the effectiveness of the medication. Initial treatment is with anti convulsant drugs such as Tegretol, Neurontin or Lyrica. These medications reduce the excitation of the nerve. Opiates are generally not effective for TN.
If medication is ineffective or side effects are too severe there are neurosurgical procedures to either relieve pressure on the nerve or to create numbness instead of pain. About five out of every 100,000 people, or 1,500 people, are diagnosed with TN each year in Canada. In the US it is classified as a rare disease.
The symptoms of this disease and issue vary widely, and for most people, the symptoms stay relatively benign and do not develop into major problems or paralysis. These symptoms include general discomfort and uneasiness, red throat issues, headaches, slight or severe fevers, sore throats, vomiting, and other acute, related problems. Many people experience symptoms relating to electric shock-like pain in their face and around their facial features, as well.
These people may not experience symptoms, or mild symptoms may last just three or four days. For other people, though, the central nervous system is affected by this disorder and disease quite severely, and these symptoms eventually lead into more severe issues related to paralytic forms and paralysis among those infected.
While paralysis is rare among people who experience Trigeminal Neuralgia, it must be taken seriously as polio left unchecked can turn into paralysis and other severe medical problems. Thus, these symptoms must be checked out by a doctor, especially for people who have just returned from various areas or who have been suspected of carrying the right genes to promote this disease in their own progeny and offspring.