Trigeminal neuralgia is a condition characterised by severe facial pain. The pain itself has very specific features. These include being almost invariably on one side of the face or the other. The pain itself is of a shooting, almost electric shock (lancinating) nature. There are, therefore, periods which may last for weeks or months when the pain is not present but the nature of the condition is that it often returns and over the years becomes both more severe and more frequent. Another characteristic of trigeminal neuralgia is that it is commonly triggered by such day-to-day events as eating, brushing your teeth and even being exposed to a breeze against your face. Perhaps as characteristic as the nature of the pain is the potential severity thereof. The experience of the surgeons of the Brain and Spine Clinic, managing hundreds of patients with the condition over the years, makes them ideally suited to appreciate the severity and distressing nature of the pain.
Trigeminal neuralgia is often misdiagnosed leaving patients suffering for an undue period of time. In particular, the origin of the pain is often ascribed to dental problems. If you think that, based on this description, you might have trigeminal neuralgia, please feel free to contact us.
In terms of treatment, whilst the surgical options are perhaps uniquely effective in the world of neurosurgery, the first line of management is drug therapy. Specifically, Carbamazepine (Tegretol) is dramatically effective in treating the pain to the point that complete resolution of the pain with this drug is almost diagnostic of the condition. There are a range of other drugs that may be effective in trigeminal neuralgia, although there efficacy is rather less than that of Carbamazepine. It is also a characteristic of drug therapy with Carbamazepine that over the years, the doses required to maintain remission increase. It is, therefore, not uncommon for the individual sufferer to find that intolerance develops to the drug with a variety of side effects including nausea, drowsiness and instability. Some patients find that even on low doses of Carbamazepine they are unable to tolerate the side effects. It is in these situations that surgical options should be considered. These are discussed in the trigeminal neuralgia treatment page.