Trigeminal neuralgia

Trigeminal neuralgia (sometimes called tic douloureux) is a sudden, sharp pain on one side of the face. The pain commonly starts near one side of the mouth, then shoots toward the ear, eye, or nostril on the same side of the face.

The pain may start with a touch, movement, air drafts, eating, or for no known reason. Symptom-free periods, called remissions, may last several months or longer. As the condition gets worse, however, the episodes of pain become more frequent, remissions become shorter and less common, and a dull ache may remain between the episodes of stabbing pain.

Trigeminal neuralgia is most common in middle and late life. It affects women more often than men. When trigeminal neuralgia occurs in young people, it is often caused by multiple sclerosis.

Treatment with medication is usually helpful. Surgery may be helpful if a structural problem (such as a blood vessel pressing on the trigeminal nerve) is the cause.

Last Updated: September 26, 2008

Author: Jan Nissl, RN, BS

Medical Review: Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Steven K. Patterson, BSc, DDS, MPH - Dentist

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