Trigeminal Neuralgia is a facial nerve disorder that causes sudden and severe shock-like pains in the face. It is reported to be the most painful condition in the world. The disease affects approximately 1.5% of the population mostly people over the age of 55 although it can affect people of any age.
There are several causes of TN. It is believed that in most people the disease is caused by the irritation of a blood vessel lying close to the nerve. Other causes include MS, tumors, infections and damage to the trigeminal nerve.
Most people can be helped and successfully treated by either drugs or by neurosurgery. There are three main kinds of surgery:
- Microvascular decompression which protects the nerve by separating the offending blood vessel from the Trigeminal nerve
- Destructive procedures that damage the nerve to interrupt pain signals. These include radiofrequency, glycerol, and balloon rhizotomies.
- Focussed radiation with the Gamma Knife or Linac machines.
TN can also be controlled by drugs. The drugs used are anticonvulsant drugs such as Carbamazepine, Oxycarbazepine, Gabapentin, Pregabalin or Phenytoin.
This TN patient Guide is a great overview of TN produced by the Facial Pain Association in the USA.
Diagnosis of TN The majority of people will have their TN diagnosed through the medical history. A diagnostic tool used often is the MRI.