What is trigeminal neuralgia?

Trigeminal Neuralgia
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Trigeminal neuralgia: Overview

Trigeminal neuralgia is a problem with the large nerve that brings feeling to your face. It causes a sudden, sharp pain on one side of your face. Just touching your cheek or talking can set off shooting pain toward the ear, eye, or nostril.

Some people have long periods when they do not have pain, and then it comes back. Some people have periods of pain often. But medicine or other treatment often can make the pain go away. If you keep having pain, surgery may help.

Trigeminal neuralgia

Trigeminal neuralgia is a sudden, sharp pain on one side of the face. The pain commonly starts near one side of the mouth, then shoots toward the ear, eye, or nostril on the same side of the face.

The pain may start with a touch, movement, air drafts, eating, or for no known reason. Symptom-free periods, called remissions, may last several months or longer. For some people, 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.

Treatment with medicine is usually helpful. Surgery may be helpful if a structural problem (such as a blood vessel pressing on the trigeminal nerve) is the cause.

How can you care for trigeminal neuralgia?

  • Write down when you have pain and what you were doing when it started. Try to find what causes the pain. Being in a cold wind, yawning, or shaving are examples. Avoid or limit these triggers if you can.
  • Be safe with medicines. Take your medicines exactly as prescribed.
    • Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, take an over-the-counter medicine such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • Do not take two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
  • Reduce stress in your life. Ask your doctor about ways to relax. These may include breathing exercises and massage.
  • Think about joining a support group with other people who have this problem. These groups can give comfort and information about what to do to feel better.

Trigeminal neuralgia: When to call

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have severe pain that you can't control.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You are not able to sleep because of the pain.
  • You do not get better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.