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What Can Cause Trigeminal Neuralgia?
Trigeminal neuralgia is a condition that causes significant facial pain, which can disrupt one’s daily activities. Chewing, chatting, smiling, cleaning teeth, grooming, or mild pressure on the face can all contribute to brief, painful incidents. The pain can be intermittent, severe, and abrupt. It might potentially be more frequent but less severe.
It usually affects just one side of the face at a time and is said to be unilateral. However, the condition is called bilateral when it affects both sides of the face. The right side of the face is somewhat more commonly affected than the left.
Common causes of trigeminal neuralgia
The trigeminal nerve conveys touch and pain signals from the face and head to the brain. There are three parts to the trigeminal nerve. One part transmits nerve impulses from the forehead, upper eyelids, and eyes to the brain. The second part controls sensation in the lower eyelids, cheeks, nostrils, upper lip, and upper gum. Finally, the third part handles the lower lip, lower gum, jaws, and some chewing muscles.
Various conditions can trigger trigeminal neuralgia, but the most common cause is pressure on the trigeminal nerve by a blood vessel near the brain stem. In addition, multiple sclerosis (MS) causes the myelin sheath, the nerve covering, to deteriorate; thus, persons with the condition are more likely to develop trigeminal neuralgia.
In rare cases, nerve compression is caused by a tumor or vascular lesion. Other causes of facial nerve pain comparable to TN-type pain include injury to the trigeminal nerve from an oral or sinus surgery, stroke, or facial trauma.
Types of trigeminal neuralgia
Typical (Type 1): The symptoms include severe face discomfort or burning that occurs suddenly or sporadically. The episode may persist anywhere from a few seconds and several minutes. Painful episodes happen in quick succession and might last a few hours, although there are usually pain-free intervals in between.
Atypical (Type 2): This is marked by continuous discomfort, as well as stabbing, burning, or aching sensations that are less severe but more pronounced than those associated with Type 1. The symptoms are often more difficult to manage.
Trigeminal neuralgia can be progressive, which means that it becomes worse with time. Pain may initially be restricted to the upper or lower jaw, leading patients to believe it results from dental issues. However, the time between episodes may shorten or disappear entirely, and attempts to control discomfort with medications may prove futile.
The pain associated with trigeminal neuralgia can be so severe that it becomes incapacitating. As a result, people with the condition may avoid regular activities out of fear of experiencing a painful episode.
Diagnosis and tests
A temporomandibular joint (TMJ) specialist will inquire about the patient’s symptoms and medical history. They will examine the ears, mouth, teeth, and TMJ, and other parts of the head and neck.
Before making a definitive diagnosis, the healthcare professional will first rule out other conditions that contribute to facial pain and resemble trigeminal neuralgia pain. For example, ear infections and sinusitis, cluster headaches or migraines, post-herpetic neuralgia (pain after a shingles breakout), and TMJ dysfunction.
If you are experiencing signs of trigeminal neuralgia, you should visit a TMJ specialist for diagnosis and treatment. Book an appointment today to get started.
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