Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) is an excruciatingly painful disorder that afflicts the trigeminal nerve. The trigeminal nerve is also known as the fifth cranial nerve, which is one of the largest nerves in the head. Its job is to send messages concerning temperature, touch, pain and pressure from the face, forehead, gums and jaw, and from the area around the eyes, to the brain.
Trigeminal neuralgia is also known as tic douloureux, which is French for "painful tic". This translation does not do justice to the exquisite agony that is caused by tic douloureux.
Simple movement like talking, chewing, or swallowing can trigger sudden stabbing pain, usually on one side of the jaw. The pain may be only of seconds' duration, or it may repeat in a long series of shocks.
The sensory assault may be brief, or may last for days, weeks, even months at a time. Then later it may disappear for long stretches with no explanation for either its advent or its departure.
The unpredictable and searing nature of the disorder can prompt interference with sleeping and eating to the point of malnutrition. Anxiety, depression and suicidal preoccupation may accompany this condition.
It's possible that nerve damage or stress might be the source of origin for trigeminal neuralgia.
Nerve damage can remove the myelin, which is the protective coating of the nerve. Messages being sent by the nerve will be faulty. A burst of energy from a damaged nerve will trigger the pain.
Diseases that affect the central nervous system like multiple sclerosis may also be a factor in the emergence of TN. It may be possible that the nerve is compressed by a blood vessel, and the pressure experienced helps lead to TN.
Trigeminal neuralgia is often precipitated by major life stressors such as the death of a loved one, a divorce, job change or job loss.
Trigeminal neuralgia usually appears after the age of fifty. More women than men will have TN.
Treatments available for TN are different types of medication, surgery, as well as alternative and complementary means like acupunture, biofeedback, nutritional therapy and nerve stimulation.