Trigeminal neuralgia - Symptoms 

Symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia 

The main symptom of trigeminal neuralgia is a severe stabbing or piercing pain in your face that comes on suddenly.

The pain is almost always on one side of your face, although in rare cases it is on both sides. It can be in the lower jaw, upper jaw, cheek, and less often the eye and forehead.

The pain may last from a few seconds to two minutes each time and you may also feel:

  • tingling or numbness in your face before the pain develops
  • a slight ache or burning feeling during the attack

You may have spasms of pain regularly for days, weeks or months at a time. In severe cases, you may feel pain hundreds of times a day. Some people experience a constant dull ache in certain areas between episodes of pain. However, it is possible for pain to disappear completely and not reoccur for months or years.

Triggers of trigeminal neuralgia

Episodes of trigeminal neuralgia can be triggered by certain actions or movements, such as:

  • talking
  • smiling
  • chewing
  • brushing your teeth
  • a light touch
  • shaving
  • swallowing
  • a cool breeze
  • head movements

Living with trigeminal neuralgia can be difficult, and it can interfere with your quality of life. You may feel like avoiding activities such as washing, shaving or eating in order to avoid triggering pain.

Living with pain, especially if it affects your quality of life, can also lead to depression (feelings of extreme sadness or despair that last a long time).

Atypical trigeminal neuralgia

Atypical means irregular or not typical. If you have this type of trigeminal neuralgia, you will feel prolonged pain between attacks. It may be a constant throbbing, aching or burning sensation. This form of trigeminal neuralgia responds less well to treatment than classic trigeminal neuralgia.

Page last reviewed: 13/07/2012

Next review due: 13/07/2014


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