Trigeminal Neuralgia: How to Avoid 911 by Learning the 411

I found an interesting article about Trigeminal Neuralgia (TNA) which was a real eye-opener for me, and I’d like to share the highlights with you. If you or your loved one is experiencing facial numbness and/or pain, you need to see your doctor because you may have TNA.

It’s not something you want to mess around with and here’s why…

Trigeminal Neuralgia 411:

  • TNA involves the 5th cranial (facial) nerve, which is also known as the trigeminal nerve
  • Located in the head, the trigeminal nerve is one of the largest. It spans across the head kind of like a T bar that spreads out like tentacles the right and left sides of the head. It’s crucial for functioning in our daily lives
  • It’s primary function is sensory – to detect touch, pain, pressure, and temperature on the face and cheek between the forehead and jaw, as well as the surface area around the eyebrows and eyes
  • TNA presents as a sudden excruciatingly, intense stabbing (“ice pick”) pain in this region, but occurs only on one side of the face
  • Slightly more common in women in their 50s, 60s, and 70s
  • The attacks can last from a few seconds to a minute or two, and can worsen in frequency and intensity
  • What triggers TNA is different for people – from talking, to applying makeup, to sneezing, eating, or even a gentle caress like a baby’s kiss. Sometimes people experience facial numbness in a small area such as the lips or cheek, followed by the sudden shock of pain
  • It’s thought that as the myelin sheath that protects the nerve is injured (either by an autoimmune disease or physical trauma/injury), numbness and pain result when the nerve is exposed. Keep in mind that a simple vein that begins to grow and wrap around the nerve can also cause TNA

Getting a Diagnosis: If you are experiencing facial numbness that comes and goes or persists, you shouldn’t delay talking to your doctor. You will probably refer you to a neurologist who should examine you thoroughly. You can expect blood work to rule out deficiencies in potassium and magnesium, which can usually be easily corrected with supplements. They will also check for deficiencies or surpluses in immunoglobulins that are present with autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

Treatment: There’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that because everyone is different, some people don’t respond as well to treatment and live a life of misery with pain because it’s unbearable, sometimes constant. The good news is that many people respond well to treatment which may include:

If you’d like to know more, please contact University of Kentucky’s Healthcare Medical Center at 800.333.8874 or visit: ukhealthcare.uky.edu.

You can also call the TN Association at 800.923.3608 or visit tna-support.org. Of course, there are many other hospitals and specialty clinics that you can find online.


Alisha Stone

Alisha Stone

Alisha Stone has a BA in psychology and is dedicated to improving the lives of others living with chronic illnesses.

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