Trigeminal Neuralgia

Trigeminal neuralgia (sometimes called tic douloureux) causes sudden episodes of facial pain. The pain commonly starts near one side of the mouth and then shoots toward the ear, eye or nostril on the same side of the face.

The pain may be triggered by such factors as touch, movement, air drafts and eating. Symptom-free periods (remissions) lasting several months or longer may occur. As the disorder progresses, however, the episodes of pain become more frequent, remissions become shorter and less common, and a dull ache may remain between the episodes of stabbing pain.

Trigeminal neuralgia is most common in middle and late life. It affects women more often than men. When trigeminal neuralgia occurs in young people, multiple sclerosis is often the cause.

Treatment with medication can be helpful.

Surgery may also be considered if a structural problem (such as a blood vessel pressing on the trigeminal nerve) is the cause. The Trigeminal Neuralgia Program in the Department of Neurosurgery utilizes endoscopic techniques to surgically treat trigeminal neuralgia.

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