Facial pain. Probably every American has had it at some point and in the vast majority of cases it is easily resolved. But for some Americans, facial pain is a constant struggle that they feel has little to no hope of ever being resolved. Many of these patients have a condition known as trigeminal neuralgia. This pain is caused by damage to the trigeminal nerve which supplies the sensation to most of your face. The condition is rare, affecting more women than men. There are a whole host of reasons one might develop the condition but usually, it is caused by compression of the nerve (ie something pushing up against it in the brain).
How do I know if I have trigeminal neuralgia?
There is a characteristic picture that is usually diagnostic of trigeminal neuralgia. Most people will experience sharp electric shock-like facial pain in the same distribution over a few seconds (before the pain resolves). These “attacks” occur a number of times a day. They are typically on just one side of the face. Whilst this is the commonest complaint, you can also develop:
- Muscle spasm with the facial pain
- A dull, continuous pain between attacks
- Attacks that affect both sides of the face.
What treatments are available for trigeminal neuralgia?
There are a number of treatments that can be tried to manage the pain. It is best to get in contact with a specialist clinic who are able to individualize your treatment and offer you all the latest advances in trigeminal neuralgia management. Some of these treatments might include:
- Most doctors will start patients out on a medical to try and reduce the electrical activity in the trigeminal nerve. By reducing the electrical activity they try to reduce pain signals heading up to the brain. One of these medications is known as Carbamazepine and is most commonly used in the management of epilepsy. This drug has been studied extensively in the condition and works well. Somewhere between 60 and 100 percent of patients get a near complete relief of pain on this drug.
- Injections may also be trialed. Specialist clinics can offer peripheral nerve blocks where local anesthetic (which stops nerves firing) is injected straight into the nerve and significantly reduce or stop the pain. This is often trialed if drug therapy isn’t completely controlling your symptoms
- In some patients, surgery can be tried. Surgery usually tried to increased the space around the trigeminal nerve so that it has more space to rest in and is not so compressed. This is typically reserved for patients who have not tolerated drugs and whose symptoms cannot be resolved by other means.
If you or somebody you know is suffering from trigeminal neuralgia or some unspecified facial pain then get in contact with a specialist pain management clinic that can offer you the best-individualized therapies to get you back to doing the things you love, pain-free.