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Other Names:
Tic Douloureux
Trigeminal Neuralgia

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What is Trigeminal Neuralgia?

Trigeminal neuralgia, also called tic douloureux, is a condition that affects the trigeminal nerve (the 5th cranial nerve), one of the largest nerves in the head. The trigeminal nerve is responsible for sending impulses of touch, pain, pressure, and temperature to the brain from the face, jaw, gums, forehead, and around the eyes. Trigeminal neuralgia is characterized by a sudden, severe, electric shock-like or stabbing pain typically felt on one side of the jaw or cheek. The disorder is more common in women than in men and rarely affects anyone younger than 50. The attacks of pain, which generally last several seconds and may be repeated one after the other, may be triggered by talking, brushing teeth, touching the face, chewing, or swallowing. The attacks may come and go throughout the day and last for days, weeks, or months at a time, and then disappear for months or years.

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Is there any treatment?

Treatment for trigeminal neuralgia typically includes anticonvulsant medications such as carbamazepine or phenytoin. Baclofen, clonazepam, gabapentin, and valproic acid may also be effective and may be used in combination to achieve pain relief. If medication fails to relieve pain, surgical treatment may be recommended.

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What is the prognosis?

The disorder is characterized by recurrences and remissions, and successive recurrences may incapacitate the patient. Due to the intensity of the pain, even the fear of an impending attack may prevent activity. Trigeminal neuralgia is not fatal.

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What research is being done?

Within the NINDS research programs, trigeminal neuralgia is addressed primarily through studies associated with pain research. NINDS vigorously pursues a research program seeking new treatments for pain and nerve damage with the ultimate goal of reversing debilitating conditions such as trigeminal neuralgia. NINDS has notified research investigators that it is seeking grant applications both in basic and clinical pain research.

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 Organizations

American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA)

National Chronic Pain Outreach Association (NCPOA)

Trigeminal Neuralgia Association

National Foundation for the Treatment of Pain

International Radiosurgery Support Association (IRSA)

Mayday Fund [For Pain Research]

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Trigeminal Neuralgia