Facial neuropathy, also called trigeminal neuralgia, is a condition characterized by chronic pain that affects the trigeminal nerve. This nerve transmits sensation from the face to the brain. If the person suffers from trigeminal neuralgia, even slight stimulation of the face can induce intense pain.
Firstly, the person experiences short and mild pain onsets. However, upon progressing, attacks become more prolonged and frequent. In addition, the pain intensity increases. Luckily, there are treatments available to manage this condition.
Trigeminal neuralgia causes
Facial neuropathy or facial neuropathic pain can have many different causes. This type of pain can result from disruptions in the signals transmitted by the nerves, in this case, the trigeminal nerve in particular. Often, the problem lies in the contact between a blood vessel and the trigeminal nerve near the brain stem. As a result, the nerve is pressed by this contact and doesn’t work properly.
Aging can be another possible reason for trigeminal neuralgia development. In addition, this condition may occur in people who have multiple sclerosis or a similar disease that involves the damage of the myelin sheath. This sheath plays an essential role in the protection of some nerves. What’s more, the patient with cancer may experience facial neuropathy if the tumor puts pressure on the trigeminal nerve.
Some individuals may suffer from trigeminal neuralgia due to a brain lesion or another abnormality. Alternatively, stroke, surgical injuries, or facial trauma can lead to trigeminal neuropathy.
What triggers the pain?
There is a group of factors that can induce pain in a person suffering from trigeminal neuralgia. They include:
- touching the face
- eating or drinking
- brushing the teeth
- putting on makeup
- washing the face
- encountering a wind
Trigeminal neuralgia symptoms
The person with trigeminal neuralgia may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Scenes of severe, stabbing, or shooting pain that often feels like an electric shock
- Pain onsets that may be spontaneous or caused by the triggers
- Episodes of pain with duration ranging from a few seconds to several minutes
- Several attacks that last days, weeks, months, or longer. Notably, some people have periods of no pain.
- A feeling of pain in the cheek, jaw, teeth, gums, or lips. Sometimes painful sensations may occur in the eye or forehead. All of these are areas supplied by the trigeminal nerve.
- A persistent ache, a burning sensation, which may precede the spasm-like pain of trigeminal neuralgia
- Pain that affects one side of the face (in rare cases, both sides are affected)
- Pain concentrated in one spot or dispersed over a wider area
- Pain attacks that become more severe and frequent over time
It is worth mentioning that facial neuropathy pain differs from the usual pain caused by injuries such as burns or pressure.
When to see a doctor
It is essential to see the doctor if you experience painful sensations in the facial area, especially if it continues for some time or recurs. In addition, it is a good idea to talk with your healthcare provider if over-the-counter medications cannot relieve facial pain.