The chronic pain disorder causes extreme sensations of pain in the face, which can feel either like a stabbing or burning sensation. Often, this facial never pain is so extreme that it is debilitating.
The condition affects the trigeminal nerve, which is responsible for sending sensations from your face to your brain. The trigeminal nerve has three separate branches, which connect to the upper, middle, and lower sections of your face. When one or more branches of this nerve are damaged, trigeminal neuralgia can be the result.
Trigeminal neuralgia can result in a wide range of pain. There are two different types of the disorder. Type 1 is a sudden, extreme attack of facial pain, while type 2 is a constant aching or burning sensation. Both types of trigeminal neuralgia can occur simultaneously, and different parts of the face may be affected. Some Type 1 attacks are over in as little as a few seconds, but they can also last for up to two minutes and occur repeatedly for hours.
Causes of Trigeminal Neuralgia
There are many trigeminal neuralgia causes. Anything that interferes with or damages the trigeminal nerve can result in the disorder.
- Nerve Damage: One of the most common causes is when a blood vessel presses on the nerve, damaging the nerve and causing it to malfunction. As well, a tumor that places pressure on the nerve can have the same effect, although this is much less common.
- Diseases: Diseases such as multiple sclerosis can cause deterioration of the nerve’s myelin sheath and result in trigeminal neuralgia. Other causes of trigeminal neuralgia pain include aging, tangled arteries, brain lesions, or strokes.
- Facial Injuries: It is also possible for the trigeminal nerve to be damaged from certain injuries, such as blunt facial trauma. Any facial surgery, such as a sinus surgery or oral surgery has the potential to impact the trigeminal nerve.
Once you have trigeminal neuralgia, there are many ways you can trigger the pain and stress the damaged nerve. Some common triggers and causes of trigeminal neuralgia stress include eating, washing your face, brushing your teeth, putting on makeup, smiling, talking, or being touched on the face. In fact, it might be easier to simply say that anything that involves your face can produce the pain. Even a small breeze could set off an attack.
Signs and Symptoms of Trigeminal Neuralgia
Trigeminal neuralgia symptoms can be wide-ranging. Often, there is a trigger for the pain, which can be anything that causes movement in your face. This could be something as big as physical contact from shaving or washing your face to something as small as a change in facial expression. While some people may doubt that something like cold weather affects trigeminal neuralgia, the truth is that a cool breeze can set off the pain.
There are two types of trigeminal neuralgia, and they can affect different parts of your face. Trigeminal neuralgia pain may present itself as an intense but brief stabbing pain in one part of your face, or a burning sensation that affects your whole face.
While trigeminal neuralgia attacks typically occur intermittently, the condition can become worse the longer it is left untreated. The pain can become more frequent and can even eventually turn into constant pain. When left untreated, trigeminal neuralgia also becomes more difficult to treat. When trigeminal neuralgia progresses to this level, the pain can be debilitating and can negatively affect your day-to-day life and mental wellbeing.
How Is Trigeminal Neuralgia Diagnosed?
Trigeminal neuralgia is often diagnosed based on your symptoms, as there is no specific test that can effectively diagnose the disorder. A doctor will look at the type of pain that occurs, what parts of your face it affects, and what triggers the pain. Your doctor may perform a physical neurological examination, touching parts of your face to determine which branch of the nerve is causing the pain.
An MRI may also be done to check for multiple sclerosis or a tumor, which could be causing the pain. However, there are other causes of trigeminal neuralgia that an MRI will not be able to detect, such as nerve damaged due to facial trauma.
Doctors may also order tests to rule out other conditions, as facial pain can be a symptom in many other diseases, disorders, and health problems. By ruling out other possible conditions, they can make a diagnosis of trigeminal neuralgia.
Treatments for Trigeminal Neuralgia
It is very important to treat trigeminal neuralgia as soon as possible. Not only does this vastly improve your quality of life, but it also helps prevent the condition from becoming worse and more difficult to treat.
When trigeminal neuralgia is due to another disease or disorder, such as multiple sclerosis, then treatment should target the underlying cause. However, when trigeminal neuralgia is due to something else, there are a wide variety of treatment options that your doctor may explore:
Medication is often one of the first treatment options. While it can often stop the pain, prescribed medication will sometimes lose its effectiveness over time. As well, medication can have side effects that also affect the quality of your life. When medication stops working for trigeminal neuralgia, your doctor will move on to other treatments.
The most commonly prescribed medications for trigeminal neuralgia are antiepileptic drugs and antispasmodic drugs. Antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) are considered the most effective medication for trigeminal neuralgia. Studies have found that they are effective at reducing the pain associated with trigeminal neuralgia. Certain AEDs have been found to be more effective than others and will likely be the first treatment option your doctor prescribes.
The downside of using AEDs is that their effectiveness can wear off with time. As well, using an AED for lifelong treatment can end up being prohibitively expensive, as the medication will have to be used consistently. Furthermore, AEDs can cause side effects such as sedation, dizziness, or nausea. There is also a potential risk of liver damage from prolonged use.
Antispasmodic drugs, which are often known as muscle relaxants, will often be used alongside AEDs. They can help reduce the pain associated with trigeminal neuralgia, although they can also cause similar side effects as AEDs, such as drowsiness, nausea, and sedation.
If medication is not working for your trigeminal neuralgia, then your doctor will likely explore other treatment options.
Microvascular decompression is a surgery where blood vessels are moved away from the trigeminal nerve and a pad is placed between them to prevent further pressure or damage. Problematic veins may be removed, and the trigeminal nerve will also be cut in some circumstances. Microvascular decompression is effective at treating trigeminal neuralgia, although the surgery has some risks, such as facial numbness, strokes, and reduced hearing. It is also possible for trigeminal neuralgia to reoccur after the surgery.
Gamma Knife radiosurgery is another option. A surgeon uses focused radiation to damage the trigeminal nerve and eliminate the pain. Gamma Knife radiosurgery is often effective at eliminating pain. The surgery can also be repeated again whenever pain reoccurs.
Rhizotomy is another type of procedure that can often correct trigeminal neuralgia. In rhizotomy, the nerve fibers that cause pain are destroyed. Rhizotomy can include a trigeminal neuralgia nerve block to help block pain signals. There are several different types of rhizotomy. They are often effective but also frequently cause facial numbness.
Natural Home Remedies for Trigeminal Neuralgia
Whatever treatment option that you and your doctor choose to explore, there are several natural remedies that can complement your treatment and help reduce facial pain. These trigeminal neuralgia natural treatments can promote healthy nerve function and prevent the reoccurrence of pain. In combination with prescribed treatment, these natural remedies can make the difference when it comes to extreme facial pain:
B complex vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids are crucial for promoting healthy nerve function and reducing inflammation. By ensuring you have an adequate amount of these vitamins and fatty acids in your diet, you can help reduce trigeminal neuralgia pain. Luckily, there are many foods that are rich in these nutrients. These include eggs, dairy products (i.e. milk, yogurt and cheese), leafy greens and legumes (i.e. beans, peas), whole grain products (e.g. breads, oatmeal), almond milk, soy milk, and flaxseeds.
By improving your diet and adding B complex-rich foods, you can easily give your body the vitamins it needs to prevent trigeminal neuralgia. Omega-3 fatty acids can also be taken in a fish-oil or flaxseed-oil supplement.
There are also many herbs that can reduce nerve pain. St. Johnâs wort is commonly used to treat depression, but itâs also been used as an effective treatment for reducing nerve pain. Rosemary has anti-inflammatory properties that can help boost your immune system and promote faster healing. Adding these herbs to your diet can help fight trigeminal neuralgia, although you should do so with the advice of a nutritionist or naturopath, as herbs can potentially interact with medications you are taking.
3. Ashwagandha Oil
There are also non-dietary treatments for trigeminal neuralgia. One treatment for facial pain is ashwagandha oil, which is an anti-inflammatory that contains antioxidants. Not only can it help relieve nerve pain, but it can promote faster healing by boosting your immune system. The oil can be directly applied to your skin in a massage.
4. Ice Pack or Warm Compress
Finally, it is crucial that you not only relax your muscles to reduce pain, but that you also relax your body to promote greater healing. Placing an ice pack or a warm compress over the painful area of your face can help relax the muscles and ease pain. Meditation and relaxation techniques can reduce stress, which strengthens your immune system and allows for faster healing. Using relaxation techniques can be an effective complementary treatment for trigeminal pain.
Who Is Affected by Trigeminal Pain?
Trigeminal pain can affect anyone, although itâs more common with specific groups of people. Women and people over the age of 50 are more likely to be affected by the disorder. As well, younger people with multiple sclerosis are at an increased likelihood of complications of trigeminal neuralgia.
However, anyone can develop the condition, including infants. If you are experiencing facial pain, or if you are the parent of a child that seems to either be in pain or react to being touched on the face, you should have a doctor determine if you are suffering from trigeminal neuralgia.
Trigeminal neuralgia is not dangerous, but it can make your life miserable. Itâs important to have the condition treated as soon as possible before it gets worse. There are a variety of medications and surgeries that can eliminate the pain. There are also natural treatments that can help stop and prevent trigeminal neuralgia.
Donât suffer needlessly â take the right steps to eliminate your pain.
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