Understanding Trigeminal Neuralgia: Causes, Symptoms, and Coping Strategies

trigeminal neuralgia

Are you experiencing a sudden, shocking pain in one side of your face? Pain that feels like an electric shock when you brush your teeth or put on makeup? 

If that’s the case, you might be suffering from trigeminal neuralgia. It’s a type of chronic pain disorder caused by the trigeminal nerve.

At first, this disorder causes short and mild episodes of pain, but with time the condition can get worse, and the pain can become more frequent and long-lasting. It becomes chronic but manageable with different types of treatments.

If you think you’re suffering from trigeminal neuralgia, here you’ll find all the important information about this condition.

What is trigeminal neuralgia?

As mentioned, trigeminal neuralgia, also known as tic douloureux, is a type of nerve pain. This nerve pain affects different parts of the face, either the lower face or jaw, the area around the nose, or above the eye.

The pain can either be mild or excruciating, and it can be triggered by simple, common actions such as eating, brushing your teeth, or putting on makeup.

This type of condition is common in people over 50 and it’s twice as common in women than in men.

Causes of trigeminal neuralgia

Trigeminal neuralgia happens when the function of the trigeminal nerve is disrupted. The trigeminal nerve is the largest cranial nerve and its primary function is to provide sensations to the face, forehead, jaw, gums, and eyes.

There are two types of trigeminal neuralgia, primary and secondary. Primary trigeminal neuralgia is often linked to the compression of the trigeminal nerve at the base of the head where the brain meets the spine. The contact between the blood vessel and the nerve doesn’t allow the nerve to function properly.

Secondary trigeminal neuralgia, on the other hand, is pressure on the nerve caused by a tumor, multiple sclerosis, a cyst, or some other condition. This pressure damages the myelin sheath and causes trigeminal neuralgia.

Symptoms and triggers

According to many reposts, trigeminal neuralgia manifests in many different ways. For some patients, it’s caused by an injury, and for others, it appears out of nowhere. 

Regardless of how it appears, the most common symptom of trigeminal neuralgia is sudden pain. There are two types of pain linked to this disorder. The first type of pain can be described as sharp, stabbing, sporadic, and burning around the forehead, eyes, nose, lips, and jaw. The second type of pain is constant, aching, burning but not as intense as the first type.

At first, the pain is mild, but as the condition develops, the pain becomes more intense. Also, this disorder tends to run in cycles. Patients report frequent attacks that last for a long time and then weeks, months, and even years of little to no pain at all. 

The pain is often triggered by simple things such as touching your face, brushing your teeth, talking, smiling, chewing, shaving, applying makeup, blowing the nose, or drinking hot or cold beverages.

Coping strategies and treatments

While trigeminal neuralgia can transform into chronic pain, that doesn’t mean that you have to constantly live in pain. Quite the contrary. 

There are various ways to keep the trigeminal neuralgia pain at bay. You can either opt to treat the pain with medication, or you can choose surgery.


When it comes to alleviating pain with medication, you have numerous options. At first, your doctor will start with lower doses and then increase them depending on your response to medication. 

Some of the most common medicines for trigeminal neuralgia include anticonvulsants such as carbamazepine, clonazepam, or gabapentin. Oxcarbazepine is a more recent addition and more preferred because it has fewer side effects.

Doctors also use other types of medication to treat trigeminal neuralgia. For instance, muscle relaxants such as baclofen. Then antidepressants such as amitriptyline, nortriptyline, opioids, and vitamin B12, to name a few.


If medication isn’t successfully treating pain caused by trigeminal neuralgia, your doctor will recommend surgery. Two types of surgical procedures can help control the pain.

The first procedure is open cranial surgery. This type of surgery is usually done on patients who have pressure on the trigeminal nerve from a blood vessel. During the procedure, the blood vessel is moved away from the point of compression. This open cranial surgery is the most invasive but often the most effective. 

The other type of surgery is known as the lesioning procedure. During this procedure, surgeons destroy the part of the trigeminal nerve on purpose to prevent the nerve from causing you pain.

Compared to open cranial surgery, the effects of the lesioning procedure are short-lasting, and the surgery doesn’t work on everyone.


Trigeminal neuralgia is a painful condition that can seriously affect your everyday life. The pain caused by this condition can be excruciating, but you don’t have to live with that constant pain. 

If you notice that symptoms you have that correspond to those of trigeminal neuralgia, schedule a visit with your healthcare professional. They will conduct the tests to determine if, in fact, you suffer from this medical condition. If you do, they will take all the steps to treat your trigeminal neuralgia.