Trigeminal neuralgia – TN also known as tic douloureux is a sudden severe facial pain which is described as sharp, shooting like an electric shock. Trigeminal neuralgia affects the trigeminal nerve which is one of the largest nerves in the head wherein it sends impulses of touch, pressure, pain and temperature to the brain from the face, gums, jaws, forehead and around the eyes.
It usually takes place in sudden short attacks which could last for a few seconds for about two minutes and tends to stops abruptly. In majority of the cases, it affects a certain part or all of one side of the face and the pain is mostly felt in the lower part of the face. Sometimes it could affect both the sides of the face though not normally at the same time.
In these situations the person may have regular attacks of pain for days, weeks or even months and in severe cases, these attacks could occur several times in a day. There is a possibility of the pain to improve or disappear altogether for some months or years at a time which is known as a period of remission, though these periods could get shorter with passage of time and some may even develop a more continuous aching, burning sensation and throbbing, at times accompanied by sharp attacks.
Blood Vessel Pressed on Nerve – Brain Stem
The most common cause of trigeminal neuralgia is the blood vessel pressed on the nerve towards the brain stem which over a period of time, changes occur in the blood vessels of the brain resulting in blood vessels being rubbed against the trigeminal nerve root.
This constant rubbing with each heartbeat tends to wear away the insulating membrane of the nerve leading to nerve irritation. The attacks of pain occurs due to activities which involve lightly touching the face like washing, brushing the teeth and eating though it could also be triggered by wind or movement of the head or the face and sometimes it could also occur without any trigger.
The symptoms features sudden, severe, electric shock like pain or stabbing pain which could last for several seconds and is experienced on the face and around the lips, nose, eyes, scalp and the forehead. Symptoms show up when a person tends to brush the teeth, or applying makeup, touching the face, swallowing or on feeling a slight breeze.
Most Painful Condition
Trigeminal neuralgia is considered to be one of the most painful conditions and the pain is experienced on one side of the jaw or cheek though some may feel at different intervals on both sides and the attacks of pain could be repeated one after the other.
This ailment is more common in women than in men and rarely affects individuals below the age of 50.It is usually a long term illness with periods of remission which tend to get shorter over a period of time and is treated with an anticonvulsant medication which is also used to treat epilepsy and the medication needs to be taken till the pain diminishes or disappears totally.
If the person is entering a period of remission and pain disappears, stopping the medication should be done slowly over a period of days or week as advised by the physician.