The trigeminal nerve is a major facial nerve responsible for sensations in the face, including touch, temperature, and pain.
Trigeminal neuralgia is a condition characterized by sudden, intense facial pain, described as sharp, shooting, or like an electric shock, leading to brief but severe episodes, typically on one side of the face. This pain can be triggered by simple actions such as touching, smiling, eating, talking, shaving, or even a light breeze.
The condition is caused by compression or irritation of the trigeminal nerve, often due to factors like blood vessels, tumours, or structural changes that put pressure on the nerve. Common risk factors include being female, age above 50, and certain medical conditions like hypertension or multiple sclerosis.
Diagnosis involves a thorough evaluation, including a detailed medical history and examination, and imaging studies like MRI may be used to rule out other potential causes and identify any compression or abnormalities affecting the trigeminal nerve. Treatment may include medications for pain management, such as muscle relaxants or Botox shots. In some cases, surgery may be considered to relieve nerve pressure, and procedures like gamma knife radiosurgery may be performed, using a strong dose of radiation at the base of the trigeminal nerve to alleviate or stop the pain.