When it comes to matters of health, chronic pain conditions are becoming more frequent. Unfortunately, numerous people worldwide experience chronic pain occasionally, and studies suggest that it can lead to other physical and mental disorders. According to a 2016 study by the CDC, 50 million U.S. adults had chronic pain, with 19.6 million of them experiencing high-impact chronic pain. That said, one of the most common chronic pain conditions is trigeminal neuralgia.
Below is a brief elucidation of everything you need to know about this condition.
What Is Trigeminal Neuralgia?
Also known as tic douloureux, this is a chronic pain condition characterized by excruciating pain on the lower face and jaw. Similarly, patients also tend to experience pain above the eye and around the nose area.
According to experts, the pain experienced during this condition is extremely searing and electric-shock like. This may be why trigeminal neuralgia is often defined as the most painful human health condition.
In addition, recent studies suggest that 14,000 people in the U.S. develop this disorder annually, with 140,000 currently living with the condition. These statistics make it apparent that this disorder is indeed quite common and severe.
Some of the most common symptoms of this condition include:
- Intermittent pain cramps that last for either a few seconds or several minutes.
- Pain in one side of the face.
- Pain is triggered by gentle actions such as touching your face, brushing your teeth, chewing, and speaking.
- Numbness on the face before the pain begins.
- Episodes of searing and shooting pain that feels like electric shocks.
It is fundamental to note that the debilitating pain patients experience during this condition usually occurs on one side of the face, but sometimes it may be on both- though this is rare.
Causes of Trigeminal Neuralgia
Trigeminal neuralgia is a health condition that is usually caused by irritation of the trigeminal nerve. This is a vital nerve that is responsible for providing sensation to the face. In addition, it is a wide-reaching nerve that sends branches to the lower jaw, forehead, and cheek.
Therefore, patients with trigeminal neuralgia often experience pain in these areas. Other causes of this health condition include:
- Multiple sclerosis: Trigeminal neuralgia often develops during advanced stages of multiple sclerosis.
- Tumor: When a tumor presses against the trigeminal nerve causing pressure and hence irritating the nerve. Consequently, trigeminal neuralgia develops.
- Physical damage: The nerve may be damaged by an injury, infection, or during dental surgery.
The trigeminal nerve contains three distinct branches, namely:
- Ophthalmic nerve: This is the first branch that controls sensation in the forehead, eye, and upper eyelid.
- Maxillary nerve: This second branch controls sensation in the lower eyelid, cheek, upper gum, upper lip, and nostrils.
- Mandibular nerve: As the final branch, this nerve is responsible for sensation in the lower lip, jaw, lower gum, and some muscles used for chewing.
That said, patients tend to experience pain depending on the branch that is affected. However, you should note that trigeminal neuralgia can sometimes affect more than one branch.
Types of Trigeminal Neuralgia (TN)
There are mainly two types of this condition:
- Typical TN: This is a form of the disorder that often causes sporadic and debilitating pain episodes that can occur for a maximum of two minutes per episode. Similarly, experts insist that these attacks can last for as long as two hours.
- Atypical TN: On the flip side, the atypical variant of the condition involves experiencing burning and stabbing pain that is somewhat milder than the typical form of the disorder.
Although no cure is available yet, there are several treatment options that can certainly make the condition manageable. For instance, your doctor may prescribe anticonvulsant drugs that are extremely effective since they can block pain signals sent to the brain, thus alleviating pain. Similarly, your doctor may opt for a nerve block injection, particularly a trigeminal nerve block injection that gives patients temporary pain relief.
Although trigeminal neuralgia patients may find it quite frustrating and overwhelming, the silver lining is that there are multiple treatment options available. That said, do not hesitate to contact us for more information on pain conditions and the various pain management options.