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In Some Cases, It Is Mistaken For A Toothache Or A Headache.
What is Trigeminal Neuralgia?
Many people have experienced it – a shooting pain in a tooth that just doesn't seem to go away. Chewing or drinking even aggravates the pain. But for some, face or jaw discomfort can be so intense that it electrifies certain areas of the face with piercing pain.
Trigeminal Neuralgia is a nerve disorder that causes severe face discomfort, usually on one side of the face, and results in a shooting pain that can appear in the eye, nose, check bone, mouth and chin. The pain can feel like an ice pick being forced into the skin and can last for weeks, months, even years. The disorder is so rare that it is difficult to diagnose.
Signs and Symptoms
Trigeminal Neuralgia usually affects just one side of the face but there have been known cases of bilateral Trigeminal Neuralgia. In many situations, it is mistaken for a toothache or headache. People who suffer from this disorder can suffer from attacks of pain repeatedly throughout the day. Then, the pain can disappear for a period of time only to reappear later with a more severe episode. Remission is less frequent the longer period of time the person has suffered from Trigeminal Neuralgia.
People who have suffered from severe Trigeminal Neuralgia have described the pain episodes as:
- Lightning-like or electric-like shocking pain
- Shooting pain
- Jabbing-like pain
- Like having live wires in the face
What Causes the Pain?
Trigeminal Neuralgia refers to a nerve disorder that affects the trigeminal nerve, a nerve that distributes feeling to the skin of the face, the teeth, the eyes and the lining of the mouth. This severe pain-causing disorder may be prompted by aging, a disease such as Multiple Sclerosis, or a tumor that could press on the nerve. Upon diagnosis, physicians will order a MRI so that Multiple Sclerosis can be ruled out.
What is the Treatment for Trigeminal Neuralgia?
Treatment for Trigeminal Neuralgia is usually started with a medication regimen, which in most cases will cause the pain to subside. But in some situations, the Trigeminal Neuralgia does not respond to medication and the ultimate treatment is surgery.
Some people who are treating their Trigeminal Neuralgia with medication can in time stop responding to medications, or they might experience unpleasant side effects. In this case, surgery, or a combination of surgery and medications, may be a viable treatment option.
Recent Cases of Trigeminal Neuralgia in the News
In Knoxville, Tennessee, Knox County Commissioner Amy Broyles announced that she was diagnosed with Trigeminal Neuralgia and her treatment plan included surgery to correct the pressure that was on the nerve resulting in her pain. According to her statement, her surgery required opening a hole behind the ear and inserting a cushion between the base of the trigeminal nerve and the artery that loops over it.
Shortly after the surgery, a news release stated that the surgery was slightly more complicated than originally planned, and that there were some "complications". Apparently Broyles was suffering from balance and coordination issues, however Broyles reported success shortly afterwards. The resulting issues with coordination and balance should fade over time.
A reader of the news release commented that "...those that have it liken it to a lightning bolt burning across the face..... terrible terrible nerve pain. Those who have this condition virtually live in fear of the next episode."
It is anticipated that Broyles will have a complete recovery.
Coping and Support for Pain Management
Living with Trigeminal Neuralgia may be a challenge. Pain management skills and networking with others that suffer from this nerve disorder can be helpful. If you or a loved one is experiencing tooth pain or pain in the jaw or face, it is recommended that you consult with physician to learn more about treatment and diagnosis.
For further reading on Trigeminal Neuralgia:
Note: This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for medical care.
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