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Trigeminal neuralgia

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Trigeminal neuralgia is a neurological disorder characterized by intense facial pain. It is also known as prosopalgia or “the suicide disease” in more common terms. Numerous cases of trigeminal neuralgia lead to suicide. The severe pain that is felt starting from the scalp, the forehead, down to the eyes, the nose, the lips, and the jaw can sometimes be too challenging for patients to take so they resort to taking their lives instead. One in every 15,000 people is found positive for this disease although numbers may be higher considering cases of misdiagnosis.

Trigeminal neuralgia is usually found in women beyond the age of 40. However, several cases of infliction in children as young as three years old have also been reported. The actual causes of trigeminal neuralgia are yet to be established since studies are currently ongoing. A number of those clinical studies point to the presence of tumors or cysts as well as the occurrence of medical conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis and Aneurysm as possible triggers. The abnormality in the functions of the trigeminal nerve due to a compressing blood vessel – which can be brought about by any of the above mentioned conditions -- is seen as the most probable cause of the shooting pain felt in the face.

TRIGEMINAL NEURALGIA SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

The trigeminal nerve is one of the mixed cranial nerves responsible for the reception of sensory data that originates from the face, which involves everything right above the jawline. This fifth cranial nerve is also liable in motor functions such as chewing. Any damage to the trigeminal nerve could lead to an erratic or hyperactive function, which then results to pain attacks.

Trigeminal neuralgia may also appear without any structural cause. In this case, the syndrome is considered idiopathic.

The most common and most obvious symptom of trigeminal neuralgia is a sudden pain in the face that is so severe it prohibits you from going through day-to-day as normally as you would have. Common activities usually trigger the facial pain so it is quite safe to say that trigeminal neuralgia is damaging to a person’s lifestyle. Tooth-brushing and touching easily set off attacks. That is why it is important for patients who suspect the presence of trigeminal neuralgia in their systems to consult their doctors immediately. The pain, which is similar to electric shocks, is hardly bearable. It also worsens over time. The frequency and severity of pain attacks heightens if your trigeminal neuralgia is not treated immediately. Late diagnosis and treatment may also affect your other nerves. This means that the pain may travel to the other branches of the nerves as well.

Trigeminal neuralgia is not fatal but it can make a serious difference on how you go through your daily routines. The pain attacks are crippling in more ways than one. Aside from making patients avoid everyday activities, pain attacks also usually bring about migraine-like symptoms.

TRIGEMINAL NEURALGIA TREATMENT

Unfortunately, trigeminal neuralgia cannot be cured. There are, however, available treatments that will help you live with it through and through. Using medications, undergoing surgery, and even enlisting for alternative therapies are just some of the advisable treatments for trigeminal neuralgia.
trigeminal neuralgia
Image: Trigeminal Neuralgia


Trigeminal neuralgia is so severe that mere pain relievers will not make any difference to the physical discomfort that the patients suffer from. As a result, anticonvulsants, which are devised to prevent seizures, are the most common medications prescribed. At times, an adjuvant is used alongside an anticonvulsant to normalize jaw movement. If an anticonvulsant is not useful and a surgical option is far-fetched for your case, you may be given opioid for long-term use. An antidepressant prescription or a Botox injection is also sometimes used to ease the symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia.

Surgical procedures showed consistently impressive success rates in relieving patients from the pain sensation with minimal side effects. Surgery is basically intended either to relieve the nerve from the pressure originating from the blood vessel or to disrupt the pain signals from getting through the brain. In either case, going under the knife hits the exact target so you are ensured of considerable effect almost instantly.

Radiation Therapy, most specifically Stereotactic Radiation Therapy, is another option for sufferers of trigeminal neuralgia. Basically, this process uses radiation to target the root cause of the problem. Radiation therapy sans the need for making an incision that is why it is the treatment of choice for older patients.

Aside from getting medical treatments, you could also do things on your own to help improve your condition. Managing your stress well and practicing a balanced and healthy lifestyle are found effective in minimizing the severity of pain attacks. If you are experiencing attacks, you may apply ice packs to the affected area to reduce the pain. Relaxing and getting an adequate amount of rest could also help.

TRIGEMINAL NEURALGIA SIDE EFFECTS

Another great concern of trigeminal neuralgia patients are the side effects that may arise from seeking medical help. Remember that in this regard, it is always a case-to-case basis. Patients react to treatments differently. You may experience mild to severe side effects to any of the treatments depending on your body’s responses. To be safe, always keep your doctor on call for any kind of health concern you may have along the way.

Knowing what the most applicable treatment to your case is depends on what you and your doctor have discussed regarding your level of affliction. Of course, no treatment can be effective without proper diagnosis. Doctors often discuss medical histories with their patients to know which nerve triggers the discomfort. To support their suspicion of trigeminal neuralgia, they may require you to undergo neurologic examinations and an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). After your case is established and your mode of treatment has been chosen, medical care must be handled immediately. This is both to save you from anymore discomfort and to liberate you from damaging complications of the disease. Aside from treating trigeminal neuralgia per se, your doctor will also work out the underlying conditions that came with it.

In the end, all you need to terminate your sufferings from trigeminal neuralgia is to consult a qualified medical practitioner. As with any other condition, correct diagnosis and proper handling of treatments are your only relief.
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