What is trigeminal neuralgia?
Trigeminal neuralgia (TN), also called tic douloureux, is a chronic pain condition that affects the trigeminal or 5th cranial nerve, one of the largest nerves in the head. The disorder causes extreme, sporadic, sudden burning or shock-like face pain that lasts anywhere from a few seconds to as long as 2 minutes per episode. These attacks can occur in quick succession. The intensity of pain can be physically and mentally incapacitating.
The trigeminal nerve is one of 12 pairs of cranial nerves that originate at the base of the brain. The nerve has three branches that conduct sensations from the upper, middle, and lower portions of the face, as well as the oral cavity, to the brain. The ophthalmic, or upper, branch supplies sensation to most of the scalp, forehead, and front of the head. The maxillary, or middle, branch passes through the cheek, upper jaw, top lip, teeth and gums, and to the side of the nose. The nerve’s mandibular, or lower, branch passes through the lower jaw, teeth, gums, and bottom lip. More than one nerve branch can be affected by the disorder.