Trigeminal neuralgia is a chronic pain condition that severely affects the trigeminal nerve, which is responsible for carrying sensation from your face to your brain. If a person has TN, even mild movement of the face may trigger a jolt of extreme pain. This facial nerve disorder causes searing, electric-shock-like facial pains, which mostly involves the lower face and jaw, but one can find symptoms near the nose, ears, eyes or lips. Many neurologists say trigeminal neuralgia is the most unbearably painful human condition.
Types of Trigeminal Neuralgia:
Nociceptive Pain: This pain occurs when pain receptors sense temperature, vibration, stretch, and chemicals released from damaged cells. A simple example of this pain is when something very hot touches your skin; specific pain receptors sense the heat and cause an excruciating pain.
Non-Nociceptive Pain: It is also called neuropathic pain which arises from within the nervous system itself. The pain is not related to activation of pain receptor cells in any part of the body. People often refer to it as a pinched nerve. The nerve itself is responsible for sending pain messages either because it is damaged or irritated.
Causes of Trigeminal Neuralgia:
The human face has two trigeminal nerves, one on each side. Each nerve further breaks down into three branches which send sensations of pain and touch from the face, mouth, and teeth to the brain.
- A blood vessel presses against the root of the trigeminal nerve
- Multiple Sclerosis – due to demyelinization of the nerve. Trigeminal neuralgia typically appears in the advanced stages of multiple sclerosis
- A tumour presses against the trigeminal nerve which is very rare
- Physical damage to the nerve – this may be the result of injury, a dental or surgical procedure, or infection
- Family history or genes
Diagnosis of Trigeminal Neuralgia:
If your primary care physician believes the symptoms indicate trigeminal neuralgia then the patient’s face will be examined more carefully to determine exactly which parts are affected.
MRI (magnetic resonance imaging scan) – this procedure create images of the inside of the patient’s brain and the trigeminal nerve by using uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves – it can help the doctor determine whether the neuralgia is caused by another condition, such as multiple sclerosis or a tumour. Unless a tumour or multiple sclerosis is the cause, the MRI will rarely reveal why the nerve is being irritated.
Treatment of Trigeminal Neuralgia:
- Medications: Anticonvulsant medicines—used to block nerve firing
- Surgery: Several neurosurgical procedures are available to treat TN, depending on the nature of the pain; the individual’s preference, physical health, blood pressure, and previous surgeries; presence of multiple sclerosis, and the distribution of trigeminal nerve involvement
- Complementary Approaches: Some patients cope up with TN adopting complementary techniques, combined with drug treatment. These techniques offer varying degrees of success. Some people manage TN with low-impact exercise, yoga, creative visualization, aroma therapy, or meditation. Other options include acupuncture, upper cervical chiropractic, biofeedback, vitamin therapy and nutritional therapy.
Approximately 1 in every 15,000 people is diagnosed from TN. It is thought to affect about one million people worldwide.
It was once labelled the “suicide disease” because of the significant numbers of people taking their own lives before effective treatments were discovered.
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