Trigeminal neuralgia is very painful swelling (inflammation) of the nerve (trigeminal nerve) that delivers feeling to the face and "surface" of the eye.
Trigeminal neuralgia causes severe, short-lasting (only a few seconds) facial pain on the side of the affected nerve. The condition usually affects older adults.
Often, no cause can be found. However, areas of brain swelling or abnormal blood vessels (arteriovenous malformations) can cause it.
Painful trigeminal neuralgia attacks may occur after lightly touching areas of the face that are along the fifth skull (cranial) nerve.
- Very painful, sharp electric-like spasms that last a few seconds or minutes
- Pain is usually only on one side of the face, often around the eye, cheek, and lower part of the face
- Pain may be triggered by touch or sounds
- Pain occurs while:
- Brushing teeth
Exams and Tests
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and blood tests may help rule out other conditions.
Certain medicines can help reduce pain and the rate of attacks. These may include:
- Anti-epilepsy drugs (carbamazepine, gabapentin, phenytoin)
- Migraine medicines (sumatriptan)
- Tricyclic antidepressants (amitriptyline, nortriptyline, or carbamazepine)
Some patients may need surgery.
Kanai A, Saito M, Hoka S. Subcutaneous sumatriptan for refractory trigeminal neuralgia. Headache. 2006;46(4):577-582.
Goetz CG, ed. Textbook of Clinical Neurology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders; 2007.
Luc Jasmin, MD, PhD, Departments of Anatomy & Neurological Surgery, University of California, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997-
A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.