Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) is a face pain condition. It results from a malfunctioning nerve in the face similar to an electrical wire short-circuiting. The pain of TN is one of the worst people can experience. Research into TN is being conducted which may lead to more knowledge and better treatments.
17 Facts About Trigeminal Neuralgia
1. TN pain can affect one or both sides of the face and be in any or all branches of the nerve.
2. There are several causes of TN: 1. Damage to the myelin sheath (the insulating layer) of the nerve due to a blood vessel tangled around or pressing on it, 2. Damage to the nerve from TMJD (tempora mandibular joint disorder) 3. A possible symptom of auto-immune diseases like MS, or Sjogrens Syndrome. 4. The result of physical head or face trauma. In some cases there is no known cause.
3. There are 2 types of TN. Type 1 (TN1 or classic TN) and Type 2 (TN2 or atypical TN). Type 1 is characterized by sudden, excruciating, extreme electric-shock like pain shooting through the face. Type 1 attacks commonly last from a few seconds to several minutes, and attacks often occur 100s of times a day. Type 2 is characterized by a constant burning, crushing, aching pain.
4. It is possible to have both TN1 and TN2 at the same time. Most people have TN on one side of the face, but some do experience bilateral TN.
5. It occurs most frequently over the age of 50, though people of all ages get it, including children and infants.
6. TN seems to occur more frequently in women than in men.
7. TN is both remitting and progressive. It can go into remission for weeks, months or years, but each period of remission grows shorter, and each time TN returns, it worsens. The return of TN is unpredictable. Over time, TN1 can begin to manifest as TN2.
8. TN is a relatively rare disease, and many medical professionals have no knowledge of it. It is estimated that 1 in 15,000 to 20,000 people world-wide have TN. The actual number may be higher as it is frequently misdiagnosed. Diagnosis is often delayed up to several years because TN can cause severe pain in the teeth, which leads to unnecessary dental treatment and tooth extractions
9. TN is not dangerous or contagious but the pain is worse than a combination of extreme migraine and toothache.
10. There are a multitude of triggers for TN pain such as talking, smiling, chewing, swallowing kissing, brushing teeth or hair etc. Weather is also often a trigger, especially cold or heat, or a gentle breeze.
11. Ordinary over-the-counter painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen don’t work and opiates have very limited success.
12. Medications used for TN are anti-convulsants, muscle relaxants and some anti-depressants. These do not work as instant-release, but need to build up in the system. They also often have severe and debilitating side effects. This makes it a challenge finding the right medication dose and/or combination of medications.
13. Surgeries and procedures for TN include: 1. Microvascular Decompression (MVD), a brain surgery which can sometimes help TN1 if the pain is caused by a blood vessel pressing on the trigeminal nerve, 2. Percutaneous procedures (through the skin on the face), 3. Balloon Compression, 4. Glycerol Injections, and 5. Radiofrequency Lesioning.
14. Other procedures and coping strategies include: 1. Acupuncture, 2. Botox Injections, 3. Yoga, 4. Breathing techniques, 5. Mindfulness, 6. Meditation.
15. Some people do find enough relief to live normal lives, but for many, TN is a hugely debilitating, disabling condition. It’s not something people can “snap out of” or “shape up” when the pain hits. It is hard on family and friends too, as they don’t always know how to help.
16. There is no diagnostic test for TN. Diagnosis is made based on description of symptoms.
17. There is no cure for TN
End Trigeminal Neuralgia (EndTN)
EndTN is a Facebook group for people with TN and their families. The group’s aim is to raise awareness of trigeminal neuralgia. There is an awareness page accessible to all internet users, and a closed support group accessed via Facebook. An international group, EndTN provides some of its information in several languages. All documents and posts are written and designed by End TN, but are free to re-use.
Sources and more information on TN:
TNA Trigeminal Neuralgia Assosiation UK: http://www.tna.org.uk/pages/trigeminal_neuralgia.html
TNA Facial Pain Association: http://fpa-support.org/
National Institute of neurological disorders and stroke: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/trigeminal_neuralgia/detail_trigeminal_neuralgia.htm
Mayo clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/trigeminal-neuralgia/basics/definition/con-20043802
End Trigeminal Neuralgia: https://www.facebook.com/endTrigeminalNeuralgia