This may be a first.
As I sit here writing this post, I am acutely aware of the pain that I am describing and writing about. A pain that is starting in the corner of my jaw, right below my ear, and slowly spreading in all directions, giving me a bit of a headache as well. This is a recent development, probably in the last 6 to 9 months or so, and one that I would really like to live without.
Trigeminal neuralgia is a painful condition where the trigeminal nerve has become irritated. The pain can be felt in many different ways. Including feeling like an electric shock or burning sensation and can last for a few seconds, minutes or several hours. It can range from a constant ache too sudden intense pain and can be triggered by chewing, touching the face, brushing your teeth or talking. It often occurs on the lower part of the face and usually unilaterally but occasionally it can happen bilaterally.
The pain associated with trigeminal neuralgia can actually get quite severe. Sometimes it requires hospitalization and IV painkillers. Since the pain is in the jaw, it can interfere with eating and drinking as well, so sometimes fluids and food needs to be given through an IV also.
Because of the location of the pain, trigeminal neuralgia is often mistaken for an ear infection or dental pain. Which makes it super important to make sure you cover all your bases when getting your pain checked out!
Cause of Trigeminal Neuralgia
Trigeminal neuralgia is caused when lesions are present on the trigeminal nerve, which is also the fifth cranial nerve. The trigeminal nerve controls the muscles needed for chewing, which might explain why chewing is a major trigger for the pain. Trigeminal neuralgia is actually a rare symptom of Multiple Sclerosis, with only about 4% of individuals experiencing this pain. However, we are 400 times more likely than the regular population to get trigeminal neuralgia in the first place.
Treatment of Trigeminal Neuralgia
There are several medications that are commonly prescribed for trigeminal neuralgia, these include: Tegretol, Trileptal, Baclofen, Lamictal and Botox injections. Unfortunately, the longer medication is used, the less effective it becomes. If medications are unsuccessful at controlling pain there are several surgery options available. One option is called microvascular decompression. This involves moving blood vessels away from the nerve so the blood vessels no longer push on the nerve and cause pain. Radio surgery is another type surgical treatment. This includes using radiation to block the nerve from sending pain signals. Alternative therapies, including hypnosis, acupuncture and yoga have been shown to be beneficial for managing pain as well.
As for me, I’ll be here, with my big pain in the..jaw. Trying to figure out if anything besides chewing is a trigger. Can’t stop that now, can I.
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