A severe and continuous condition that results in sudden and extreme pains in the face, trigeminal neuralgia can also cause sufferers to experience a numbness or tingling sensation or a slow aching pain immediately before an episode, which typically lasts from several seconds to a few minutes on a daily, weekly, monthly or even yearly frequency.
The origin of the condition is in the fifth of twelve pairs of nerves in the head known as the trigeminal nerve, the purpose of which is to provide feeling to the face. Running to each side of the head, it’s split into three branches to bring sensations to different parts of the face.
The condition known as trigeminal neuralgia occurs because some force or pressure is disturbing or otherwise irritating the nerve. It may be that the nerve is coming in close contact with an artery or vein, which is then compressing the nerve as it enters or exits the brain, causing it to react. It’s also possible that a tumor or a disease such as multiple sclerosis is placing pressure on or irritating the nerve.
The most obvious sign of trigeminal neuralgia are sharp, electric-shock-like pains in the facial areas that present very suddenly along the jaw and abate within a short period of time. However, for some sufferers the pain takes the form of a burning sensation that can be unceasing.
These symptoms typically guide the diagnosis of a trigeminal neuralgia, and whether or not a tumor or disease is causing the condition can be confirmed with an MRI. Other diagnostic tests can help rule out other places from which the pain may be originating.
The first step to treating trigeminal neuralgia is to begin a medication regimen with anti-seizure drugs and muscle relaxants. Surgery can be utilized to relieve any pressure being exerted on the trigeminal nerve, which may involve cutting out or otherwise destroying part of the nerve itself. And in other cases, using a focused beam of radiation on a small section of the nerve can force a lesion to form, which interrupts pain signals moving to the brain.