Don’t ignore pain in the face or jaw! It could be a sign of this rare nerve disorder

Trigeminal neuralgia is a disorder that makes one side of the face experience pain that feels like an electric shock. Here's everything you need to know about this rare nerve disorder.
Jaw pain due to nerve disorder
Your jaw pain could be a nerve disorder. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Dr Aditya Gupta Published: 26 Feb 2023, 13:30 pm IST
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People frequently overlook pain in their faces, jaws, and areas around their noses, which may get severe if ignored. This condition known as Trigeminal Neuralgia can cause severe, electric shock-like pain which may be the underlying factor of certain serious brain complications. Trigeminal nerve irritation could be the cause of the discomfort, which is usually felt in the lower cheek and jaw but can occasionally spread to the area above the eye and around the nose. It is the fifth pair responsible for providing sensation to the face out of the 12 pairs of cranial nerves in the head.

Although the condition can affect anyone at any age, people over the age of 50 are most frequently affected. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, women are more likely than males to experience trigeminal neuralgia. As a result of an inherited blood vessel formation, there is evidence that the condition runs in families. This might put you at risk of multiple sclerosis and hypertension.

rare nerve disorder
Know everything about the rare nerve disorder, trigeminal neuralgia Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Causes of the pain

The cause of the pain usually is due to contact between a healthy artery or vein putting pressure on the nerve as it enters the brain and causes damage to the nerve. Trigeminal neuralgia can also result from multiple sclerosis, which weakens the myelin sheaths, or from a tumour pressing against the nerve. The development of trigeminal neuralgia in a young adult can also increase the risk of multiple sclerosis.

Symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia

The majority of patients claim that their pain starts suddenly and without warning. Some individuals report experiencing pain after a vehicle accident, a facial blow, or dental surgery. In these situations, it is more likely that the illness was previously there and was developing and that the dental procedure merely coincidentally set off the early symptoms.

  • Sudden onset of intense, shooting pain in the face that lasts for a few seconds to almost two minutes
  • Severe pain in the face, teeth, or lower or upper jaw
  • One side of the face is experiencing pain at a time
trigeminal neuralgia
Symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Treatment of trigeminal neuralgia

Doctors may advise patients to undergo surgery if the medicine has been shown to be unsuccessful. Nevertheless, certain surgical techniques, such as microvascular decompression and stereotactic rhizotomy, need a high level of experience and competence. Whereas the Cyberknife treatment, a minimally invasive one, has been extremely beneficial for individuals with trigeminal neuralgia. The recently developed method doesn’t need any significant incisions or scars and is quite affordable.

The risks of further problems are decreased with cyberknife radiation surgery. The treatment provides several beams of high-frequency radiation to the real spots from all angles using the most recent image guidance and computer-generated robotic technology, protecting the healthy cells in the process.

During the procedure, the robotic arm slowly moves around the patient and they will not feel anything. The 30-minute single session means a shorter hospital stay. The surgery eliminates the need for anaesthesia, which is necessary for other surgical approaches since it is fully painless and completely safe with no adverse effects. In more than 80 percent of cases, patients recover after just one treatment and resume regular activities within two months of the surgery. Also, more than 10 percent of patients may get instant pain alleviation.

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About the Author

Dr Aditya Gupta is an accomplished Neurosurgeon. He was a topper at All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi. He is also an expert in spine surgery. He has more than 40 scientific publications, and chapters in books and is an invited speaker in national and international meetings. He is the chief of neurosurgery, CNS radiosurgery, and co-chief of Cyberknife Centre at Artemis Hospital.

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