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What Are the Different Trigeminal Neuralgia Symptoms?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 20 August 2014
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Trigeminal neuralgia symptoms are characterized by periods of intense shooting pain in the face, most commonly along the right side. Other symptoms can be observed as well, and in patients with atypical trigeminal neuralgia, instead of being shooting, the pain will be throbbing, dull, and continuous. People who notice trigeminal neuralgia symptoms should consult a neurologist for diagnosis and treatment. There are treatment options available to control the pain and discomfort, although a patient may need to pursue several regimens to find one that works.

This neurological condition is caused by a blood vessel that presses on the trigeminal nerve, one of the major facial nerves. The trigeminal nerve relays sensory information to the brain from the face. When a blood vessel presses on the nerve for an extended period of time, it erodes the protective myelin sheath covering the nerve and the nerve begins to fire random pain signals. People with trigeminal neuralgia are typically older adults.

The shooting pain associated with trigeminal neuralgia is usually accompanied by involuntary muscle movements. The pain can repeat several times and be followed by a pain-free period that varies in length. Trigeminal neuralgia symptoms typically cluster together more over time, with fewer pain-free periods between attacks. This is a result of ongoing damage to the myelin and further erosion of the nerve's function.

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Attacks usually occur in response to a stimulus. Any sensation on the face can trigger the sharp pain of trigeminal neuralgia, from going outside in a brisk breeze to putting on a pair of glasses. Patients who experience trigeminal neuralgia symptoms may start avoiding daily activities out of concern that they will experience attacks. Sometimes attacks strike randomly, with no known stimulus. Like other pain conditions, this condition can be associated with severe depression, and some patients develop suicidal thoughts because of the pain.

Treatments for trigeminal neuralgia include an assortment of medications to control the attacks and blunt the pain, as well as surgery for some patients. A neurologist can discuss the various available options, as well as their potential costs and benefits to help a patient reach a decision about treatment. There are also complementary therapies available, including biofeedback, acupuncture, and other treatments. These therapies can be undertaken simultaneously with conventional medical therapies to approach the trigeminal neuralgia from several directions. Patients who experience emotional disturbances in addition to trigeminal neuralgia symptoms may also want to consider psychiatric treatment to help them address their emotions.

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