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Trigeminal neuralgia is damage to the trigeminal nerve that causes brief but severe episodes of facial pain. The trigeminal nerve is responsible for providing sensation to the face. The resulting facial pain is described as sharp, electrical, or burning. Episodes of trigeminal neuralgia are triggered by simple activities such as brushing your teeth or eating. However, in some cases, the pain may be so severe that it interferes with daily activities. With proper treatment, many people with trigeminal neuralgia can live relatively normal lives.
The trigeminal nerve is one of 12 pairs of nerves that are attached to the brain. The nerve has three branches that conduct sensations from the upper, middle, and lower portions of the face and oral cavity to the brain. Therefore, more than one branch can be affected by Trigeminal neuralgia.
- Ophthalmic (upper) branch – provides feeling to most of the scalp, forehead, and frontal part of the head
- Maxillary (middle) branch – stimulates the cheek, upper jaw, top lip, teeth, gums, and the side of the nose
- Mandibular (lower) branch – supplies nerves to the lower jaw, teeth, gums, and bottom lip
A variety of factors can cause trigeminal neuralgia. First, it can be caused by pressure on the trigeminal nerve. This pressure causes deterioration and damage to the protective coating around the nerve (myelin sheath). Trigeminal neuralgia is common in people with multiple sclerosis. In more extreme cases, trigeminal neuralgia may be caused by pressure on the nerve from a tumor or an arteriovenous malformation (tangled arteries or veins). Lastly, injury to or around the trigeminal nerve can cause neuropathic facial pain.
“We don’t treat your symptoms, we build your health.” ~ Dr. David Martino D.C.