Trigeminal neuralgia is one of the most common causes of facial pain. In this condition, the patient experiences pain in one or more of the three branches of the trigeminal nerve. This type of pain often has a sudden onset and is severe, intense, sharp, superficial or stabbing.
This pain lasts anywhere from a few seconds and to several minutes, and may happen again in the hours, days or weeks following the first attack. These incidents can then stop for months or even years. The percentage of the population suffering from this condition is unknown, as is its cause. One theory is that trigeminal neuralgia is caused by compression of a part of this nerve.
To diagnose the source of the patient’s pain, a physician will collect a medical history and perform a physical exam. As well, a neurological exam may need to be performed to rule out this line of causes for this pain. The doctor may be able to demonstrate trigger zones that indicate trigeminal neuralgia.
Treating facial pain can be very difficult. The standard approach is to suggest an over-the-counter or prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs), anticonvulsant and antidepressant medications. Some patients’ pain may be best controlled with a spinal cord stimulator or peripheral nerve stimulator. If conservative methods are unsuccessful, surgical intervention may be the patient’s best option for pain relief.