A Patient’s Guide to Trigeminal Neuropathies

Trigeminal Neuropathies is a group of pains in different parts of the face such lower face, jaw, and nose. Some time patient feels searing pain in the area of the nose, lips, and eyes also. Trigeminal Neuropathies are also known as Trigeminal neuralgia. It is a facial nerve disorder. Some medical experts called it tic douloureaux because it is one of the most painful conditions found in humans. Trigeminal Neuralgia is completely non-nociceptive pain because it arises from the damage or irritation of the nerve.

When we talk in the context of medical science, Trigeminal Neuralgia is the pain along the course of a nerve. This pain arises due to irritation or any kind of injury to the nerve. This painful condition can affect the trigeminal nerve also which is the longest and wide-reaching nerve in the head. In this article, we are presenting you with a complete patient’s guide to Trigeminal Neuralgia in which you will have the opportunity to learn about its causes, symptoms, and treatments.

Causes of Trigeminal Neuralgia

Blood vessel pressing is one of the main causes of Trigeminal Neuralgia. Blood vessel pressing puts pressure on the root of the Trigeminal nerve which causes Trigeminal Neuralgia. The blood vessel pressing causes the triggering of the Trigeminal nerve to transmit pain signals to the CNS system. As a result of these pain signals, the patient feels stabbing pains in different facial parts. A tumor can also cause pressing of the nerve.

Other potential causes of Trigeminal Neuralgia may include:

  • Demyelination of the nerve can cause Trigeminal Neuralgia because it can damage the activity and conducting capacity of the nerve. If the demyelination of the nerve is very much severe, it is known as Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
  • A big clot of cells or a tumor that can press the root of the trigeminal nerve is another reason for Trigeminal Neuralgia. But this cause is very rare.
  • Damaging of the trigeminal nerve from the outside of the body in the form of injury, a surgical procedure, or an infection.

Symptoms of Trigeminal Neuralgia

Some people suffering from Trigeminal Neuralgia have reported that this pain is short-lived but very stabbing. The patient feels this pain shooting along the course of the damaged nerve. If not treated in the early stages, Trigeminal Neuralgia can become chronic pain. Trigeminal Neuralgia is more common in women than men according to researches. Some major symptoms of Trigeminal Neuralgia include:

  • Short and alternating periods of pain last for a few seconds or minutes.
  • Severe episodes of electric shocks like pain.
  • Sudden increase in pain by touching affected areas of the face. Feeling severe pain while trying to chew anything, brushing the teeth, or speaking.
  • Spasms of pain.
  • Numbness in the face before the starting of pain.

In Trigeminal Neuralgia, the patient feels pain in three types of areas according to the branching of the Trigeminal nerve.

  • Ophthalmic Area: In this type of area of pain, pain usually affects the forehead, eyes, and nose.
  • Mandibular Area: Pain affects the areas of the jaw, lips, teeth (lower), and gums.
  • Maxillary: Pain affects the eyelids, nose slide, cheek, and upper teeth.

Diagnosis of Trigeminal Neuralgia

A proper doctor checkup is necessary for the diagnosis of Trigeminal Neuralgia. Commonly, an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan is very helpful in this regard because it can eliminate all other conditions with similar symptoms such as a tumor or tooth decay. But MRI cannot show the exact cause of Trigeminal nerve irritation.

Treatment of Trigeminal Neuralgia

Two types of treatments are commonly used for Trigeminal Neuralgia, Prescribed medication, and Surgery.

Prescribed Medications:

There are certain medications available in the market to treat Trigeminal Neuralgia but they become less active over time due to an increase in body tolerance. Prescribed Medications have many unwanted side effects also. Doctors and health officials usually use three medications to treat Trigeminal Neuralgia, Anticonvulsants, Antispasticity agents, and Alcohol injections.

·         Anticonvulsants:

Ordinary painkillers cannot relieve Trigeminal Neuralgia pain and for this reason, doctors use prescribed anticonvulsant medication. The main purpose of anticonvulsants is to save the patient from seizures but they have an ability to block pain signal transmission to the brain. Anticonvulsants stops pain signal transmission by calming down the nerve impulse.

The common Anticonvulsants which can be used for the treatment of Trigeminal Neuralgia are:

  • Valproic Acid
  • Gabapentin
  • Lamotrigine
  • Phenytoin
  • Carbamazepine

It sometimes happens that Anticonvulsants cannot work continuously to the same extent and become less effective over time. In this kind of case, the doctor change the anticonvulsant and prescribed another one.

There are certain side effects associated with anticonvulsants, such as:

  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Suicidal Thoughts
  • Vision problem

·         Antispasticity agents

Antispasticity agents are relaxing agents. Their main purpose is to calm down the nerve impulse and pain relief. Baclofen is the best example of these agents. Doctors prescribe Baclofen alone or in combination with an anticonvulsant. Confusion and drowsiness are some side effects of Antispasticity agents.

·         Alcohol Injection

Alcohol injections are injected into the parts of the face suffering from Trigeminal Neuralgia for removing numbness from these parts. Alcohol injections are used particularly in painful parts of the face.

Surgery

Surgery is another treatment for Trigeminal Neuralgia. The main purpose of Surgery in Trigeminal Neuralgia includes:

  • To stop or remove any vein and artery which is pressing against the Trigeminal nerve.
  • Damage or stope the conductivity of the Trigeminal nerve so it cannot send uncontrolled pain signals to the brain.

Damaging the Trigeminal nerve through surgery can cause permanent or temporary numbness of the face. The patient can feel temporary relief by surgery but symptoms may return after months or years.

Thank you very much for reading this article!

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