Trigeminal Neuralgia is a very severe facial pain that is caused very suddenly. The pain is usually described as a sharp shooting pain or like having an electric shock in the jaw, teeth or gums.
The disease generally happens for short span of time and the attacks can last from few seconds to about two minutes. The attacks stop as early as it gets start.
In most of the cases of trigeminal neuralgia, one side of the face gets affected with the pain usually felt in the lower part of the face. Rarely, the disease affects the both sides of the face.
People suffering with Trigeminal Neuralgia have the chances of experiencing attacks of pain regularly for days, weeks or months at a time. In major cases, attacks may occur more than hundreds of times a day.
Some of the people may then go on to develop a more continuous aching, throbbing and burning sensation, rarely accompanied by the sharp attacks.
Living with trigeminal neuralgia can be very difficult. It can have a significant impact on a person's quality of life, resulting in problems such as weight loss, isolation and depression.
Causes of Trigeminal Neuralgia
Generally, trigeminal neuralgia is caused by compression of the trigeminal nerve. This is because of the nerve within the skull that transfers sensations of pain from your face, teeth and mouth to your brain.
Rarely, the cause of trigeminal neuralgia should be a damage made to the trigeminal nerve as a result of an underlying condition, like multiple sclerosis (MS) or a tumor.
Specifically, the attacks of pain are caused by activities that include lightly touching the face, like eating, washing and brushing the teeth. Some of the times, the pain can happen without any trigger at all.
Treatment of Trigeminal Neuralgia
Usually, trigeminal neuralgia is a long-term condition, and the periods of remission often get shorter over time. However, most cases can be controlled with treatment to at least some degree.
To treat trigeminal neuralgia, an anticonvulsant medication known as carbamazepine is often used to treat epilepsy and is the first treatment generally advised.
To be effective for a disease like trigeminal neuralgia, carbamazepine needs to be taken many times a day, with the dose gradually increasing over the course of a few days or weeks.
The medication is usually continued for as long as necessary, sometimes for many years unless your pain starts to diminish or disappears altogether.
If you are going through a period of remission and your pain from trigeminal neuralgia starts to go away, stopping the medicine should always be done slowly over days or weeks, unless you are recommended by a doctor.
Carbamazepine wasn't originally designed to treat trigeminal neuralgia, but it can help in reducing nerve pain by slowing down electrical impulses in the nerves and restricting their ability to transmit pain messages.
If this medication is ineffective, unsuitable or causes too many side effects, you may be referred to a specialist to discuss alternative medications or surgical procedures that may help.
There are number of small surgical procedures available which can be used for the treatment of trigeminal neuralgia usually by damaging the nerve to stop it sending pain signals but these are generally only effective for a few years.
Else, your specialist may advise you having surgery to open up your skull and move away any blood vessels compressing the trigeminal nerve.
Research shows that this operation provides the best outcomes in terms of long-term pain relief, but it's a big operation and carries a risk of potentially serious risks, like hearing loss, facial numbness or, very rarely, a stroke.