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Trigeminal neuropathy, also referred to as trigeminal neuralgia, is a medical condition in which the nerve supplying the face becomes inflamed. The exact cause of this condition is unknown, although it is more common in patients with multiple sclerosis and is sometimes attributed to the aging process. Trigeminal neuropathy causes extreme shooting pain in the face and head, with the pain often coming in short bursts. There is no cure for this condition, so treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms. Prescription medications are the most common form of treatment, although surgery is sometimes required.
The pain that occurs in patients with trigeminal neuropathy is often described as strong, painful electrical shocks, generally only on one side of the face. This pain can occur on the lower portion of the face, the cheeks, or near the eye. Almost any activity involving the facial nerves can trigger a painful episode, including chewing, brushing teeth, or even a cool breeze blowing on the face. Each episode tends to last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes, occasionally back to back. There can be days, weeks, or even months between episodes in some cases.
Prescription medications are often used to attempt to control the pain as well as the frequency of trigeminal neuropathy attacks. Certain anti-seizure medications are the most commonly prescribed medications, as they have been shown to help relieve various types of nerve pain. Some antidepressants have also proved to be helpful in reducing the symptoms of trigeminal neuropathy. Due to the headaches that often accompany the painful attacks, migraine medications are often prescribed along with other types of medication.
Surgical intervention sometimes becomes necessary in order to adequately relieve the pain associated with trigeminal neuropathy. Surgery is aimed at either relieving some of the pressure on the trigeminal nerve or disrupting the pain signals between the nerve and the brain. This type of surgery has a significant success rate, although further surgical procedures may become necessary if the pain returns. Radiation therapy can sometimes help relieve the painful symptoms without the necessity of an invasive surgical procedure. A neurologist, a doctor who specializes in nerve disorders, can help the patient decide on the best course of treatment on an individual basis.
Psychological treatment is often recommended for those suffering from trigeminal neuropathy. This is due to the emotional difficulties experienced when living with chronic pain. This condition can make it difficult for some patients to hold a job or to even leave the house during an attack. Many people become severely depressed as a result of all of the issues relating to this condition.