THE DOCTORS 101 CHRONIC SYMPTOMS & CONDITIONS #13: TRIGEMINAL NEURALGIA

My Mother had Tic Douloureux, the traditional name for Trigeminal Neuralgia. I remember her suddenly covering her face with her hand and grimacing, but this was only occasionally.

Compression, degeneration or inflammation of the 5th cranial nerve may result in a condition called trigeminal neuralgia or tic douloureux. This condition is characterized by recurring episodes of intense stabbing , sever, excoriating pain radiating from the angle of the jaw along one or more branches of the trigeminal nerve on one side. Usually involves maxillary & mandibular branches, rarely in the ophthalmic division. Usually above 50 years and more in females. Can result from a redundant loop of superior cerebellar artery. Surgery is the treatment of choice.

TD is not very common for “101 chronic conditions”, but it is the most common cause of chronic facial pain. It occurs in the FACIAL region supplied by the 5th cranial, or TRIGEMINAL nerve. This is about the area covered by your widely spread hand, pinkie on the nose, and the butt of the palm along the jawbone.

Brief shocking pain occurs in “PAROXYSMS” in the facial area, on ONE SIDE, and TRIGGERED by tooth brushing, touching the face, or even by the blowing of the wind. This description is so typical and specific as to be “pathognomonic”, and can be diagnosed over the telephone.

Variants can give continuous pain, or occur on both sides, but the “classical” variety is most common. You should contact your Doctor, since some cases are caused by Multiple Sclerosis or a tumor. Effective medications are available, such as carbamazepine.

TD can be familial, but is often caused by compression of a nearby artery, and “decompression” is currently the most effective surgical treatment. It is one of the few “chronic 101” conditions not to be substantially prevented or helped by our old standbys, sleep, diet and exercise.

That being said, it is sometimes helped by exercise, and almost never occurs during sleep. The August 20, 2020 New England Journal of Medicine Has an excellent Review article, which will be appended to this posting.

–Dr. C.

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