What are Trigeminal Neuralgia Causes?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 05 January 2019
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Trigeminal neuralgia, also referred to as tic douloureaux, is a medical condition that causes severe facial pain due to irritation of the trigeminal nerve. This pain is typically experienced as abrupt electrical shock feelings and is believed by many to be the most excruciating type of human pain. Exact trigeminal neuralgia causes are not always found, although people who have certain medical conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, seem to be more prone to developing this painful disorder. Other causes may include compression of the trigeminal nerve and aging. Treatment options for trigeminal neuralgia include medications, therapy, and in some cases surgery.

The trigeminal nerve, also known as the fifth cranial nerve, is the largest nerve in the human head. One of the most common trigeminal neuralgia causes is believed to be compression of this nerve. In many cases, a blood vessel leaving the brain stem will press against the trigeminal nerve, causing pressure on the nerve. If this compression continues, the protective covering of the nerve, known as the myelin sheath, begins to wear away, often leading to the development of trigeminal neuralgia.

The natural process of aging may be one of the potential trigeminal neuralgia causes. As a person ages, blood vessels have a tendency to naturally lengthen. This may cause the blood vessel to press against the nerve. This pressure, along with the normal pulsating action of the blood vessel, may lead to trigeminal neuralgia.


Multiple sclerosis is a disease that affects the spinal cord and the brain. This disease causes the myelin sheath surrounding various nerves of the body to wear away. When this disease process affects the covering of the fifth cranial nerve, trigeminal neuralgia may develop.

While trigeminal neuralgia causes can be diagnosed in some cases, there are many more cases in which doctors cannot find an exact cause. Trigeminal neuralgia has no cure, so treatment is aimed at trying to control symptoms so that the sufferer can function as normally as possible. Regardless of the specific trigeminal neuralgia causes, treatment options are typically the same.

Prescription medications are often used in an effort to reduce the pain and burning caused by trigeminal neuralgia. Certain types of seizure medications and antidepressants have been shown to help some patients. Prescription pain medications may sometimes be used in conjunction with other medications. Some patients may benefit from support groups or psychological therapy to learn coping methods for dealing with chronic pain caused by trigeminal neuralgia. In severe cases where prescription medications have not been successful, surgery may be performed to deaden a portion of the trigeminal nerve in order to provide pain relief, although some degree of facial numbness may be a permanent side effect of this type of surgery.



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