The suicide disease, which is also known as trigeminal neuralgia, is a pain disorder that causes excruciating discomfort in a person’s face. The pain is usually relatively short in duration and centered from the ear to the jaw. Some people who suffer with the disorder describe it as being similar to electric shock or having something nailed into the skull or both simultaneously. Certain individuals with the suicide disease can’t even stand to be touched anywhere on their faces, and the slightest brush against something can trigger bouts of suffering. It earned the title "suicide disease" because of the very high number of sufferers, as many as half according to some reports, who eventually kill themselves if they don’t receive treatment within a few years.
Trigeminal neuralgia is caused by a bad interaction between nerves at the base of a person’s skull and certain blood vessels coming out of the brain. Essentially, the blood vessels will actually become entangled with a nerve, and the motion of the blood circulating stimulates pain there. Usually, the pain is triggered by something like a touch to the face, and it will last for anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes.
The suicide disease usually comes on very suddenly. One day out of the blue, people are suddenly struck with pain, usually in response to some kind of stimulation, like biting something or having a dental operation. They may be completely mystified about what is causing their pain, and doctors are often unable to properly diagnose the problem.
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Once doctors manage to pinpoint the suicide disease, there are some treatments that can save people from suffering. The first thing most doctors attempt is pain medication. Opiates are very commonly used for this purpose because the pain is often too intense for anti-inflammatory drugs or other typical pain remedies. In the cases where this approach fails to control the pain, doctors may try brain surgery.
The procedure, which doesn’t always work, involves opening up the skull and disentangling the nerves from the blood vessels. After that, the doctor installs a synthetic buffer to keep the nerves and the blood vessels from coming into contact in the future. Sometimes they will also purposefully damage the nerves, but this can have negative consequences so it isn’t the first option. In some cases, patients recover after having this procedure and their pain never returns. It can also be less successful, and patients may only have a slight decrease in pain or very little relief at all.