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While the thought of being stabbed with a red hot knife or experiencing a lightning bolt in the face can bring to mind horrifying mental images, this experience is sadly all too real for sufferers of facial pain. For victims of Trigeminal Neuralgia, a very common form of facial pain, the condition is quite often completely debilitating because so many forms of mild facial stimulation can induce what many in the medical field consider to be one of the the most extreme forms of pain known. The agony and extreme restriction of daily activities that can be caused by this nonfatal condition has contributed to its title as the Suicide Disease.
What Is Trigeminal Neuralgia?
The pain associated with Trigeminal Neuraligia or TN occurs for periods of time ranging from seconds to hours and is recurring with occurrence in some people being up to hundreds of times each day. The pain can be caused by mild facial contact, activities such as eating, talking or any slight facial movement. Given the intensity of the pain, the ease with which it can be triggered and high frequency, the significant impact on the lives of those with the condition is quite easy to comprehend.
Though severe in its effects, trigeminal neuralgia is often misdiagnosed, sometimes as tooth pain, leaving some sufferers without treatment for an extended period of time before they are properly diagnosed. Unfortunately, many possibilities to treat the condition become less effective as the patient has the condition for a greater period of time. While it is thought to affect 1 in 15,000 people, the frequency of misdiagnosis suggests that the number of people could be higher. In the US, the number of new cases diagnosed is approximately 15000 per year.
Despite not being completely understood, the cause of the pain in trigeminal neuralgia is thought to be a result of compression of a major facial nerve by an artery on the surface of the brain. This nerve, with three main branches extends from the side of the head to the scalp, forehead, eyes, nose, lips, and jaw. It is at any of these locations where the pain is typically experienced. The same nerve formation exists on both sides of the head. Not coincidentally, based on its having three branches, this nerve is called the trigeminal nerve.
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