Trigeminal Neuralgia is a rare condition that affects 5 patients every 100 thousand cases. Among these numbers, majority of patients suffering from this disease are women between 50 and 60 years of age. 95% of cases have their cause in the pressure of the trigeminal nerve. Other less common causes may be:
• MS • cancer • cyst
Typical symptom is acute pain similar to electric shocks affecting one side of the lower area of the face. It is rare that patients experience pain in their upper facial area (4%). There also may be a pre-attack phase, when there is a dull, continuous ache and hypersensitivity. Painful phases can arise suddenly at the mere light touch to the affected area (such as, shaving, wind or breeze, brushing one’s teeth, etc). Because of this, chronic patients live in fear for another attack. The quality of their life gets affected so much, they experience depression, isolation and loss of weight and malnutrition. Between one attack and the other, patients feel a burning sensation, a slight aching or pulsing sensation of the affected area. They also experience some temporary remission phases when they have no painful attacks for months or even years.
Diagnosis: Typical characteristics to spot a trigeminal neuralgia are: - acute pain attacks that last shortly and feel like electric shocks, - pain at the slightest touch or vibration, - intense pain phases followed by remission phases, - generally, no pain during sleep.
A diagnosis of Trigeminal Neuralgia is suggested when the pain events occur often and/or are persistent, painkillers do not work and the dentist has already excluded all other options. Therefore, it is strictly important to have a precise and detailed communication with your pain doctor. Explain in details where the area is and what type of pain you feel. Exams to diagnose it: a specific test or exam for TN does not exist. Pain Doctor can only use typical exams to exclude other pathologies. Such exams are:
- X-ray by dentist excluding other pathologies, - MRI or CT scan, - Medical history and family medical history.