Researchers in Denmark are providing new insights into the painful condition known as trigeminal neuralgia (TN).
Have you ever had a stabbing pain on one side of your face – almost like an electric shock? Maybe it just happens, or maybe it seems to come when you’re brushing your teeth, or even putting on makeup.
Trigeminal neuralgia is not a common disease, and so it hasn’t been studied nearly as much as many other pain disorders. But this study of 158 patients gives us a clearer picture.
- TN seems to strike later in life than conditions like migraine. The average age when symptoms appeared was about 53 years.
- Although both men and women get TN, it is somewhat more likely to affect women.
- Almost 50% of patients had persistent pain in addition to the stabbing pain. Sometime TN with persistent pain has been called “atypical”, but it doesn’t seem to be as atypical as some think (the more proper name, by the way, is classical trigeminal neuralgia with concomitant persistent facial pain. Has a ring to it, wouldn’t you say?).
- The pain is more often on the right side.
- A little less than a third had “autonomic symptoms”, such as dizziness, and a little less than a third had “sensory abnormalities”, even if they hadn’t had surgery.
Researchers also investigated the nerve that TN affects. TN can affect different branches of the trigeminal nerve in the face. They discovered that the first branch alone was rarely the problem. Usually the culprits were the second and/or third branches.
TN is usually treated with medications such as anticonvulsants and muscle relaxants. Botox has also been used successfully for TN, and in much smaller doses than are used for migraine.
In rare cases, surgery is recommended. However, surgery is not always a guarantee that the pain is gone for good.
A clinical trial is beginning in the USA also, in Philadelphia, to investigate the use of Botox for TN. If you would like to be a part of the study, you can find more information by clicking the last link below.
For more information:
- Trigeminal neuralgia–a prospective systematic study of clinical characteristics in 158 patients. (study abstract)
- Trigeminal neuralgia – Treatment and Drugs (Mayo Clinic)
- A new study of trigeminal neuralgia (New York Headache Clinic)
- Botulinum Toxin for the Treatment of Trigeminal Neuralgia (Clinical Trial)