4 steps to help you control Trigeminal Neuralgia

Do you suffer from facial pain that just makes you want to scream? Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” is one of the most recognizable paintings in the Western world is. The subject of the piece, the screaming man, is pictured with his mouth wide open and his hands clasped against the sides of his face. 

For anyone who’s ever experienced chronic orofacial pain (pain in the mouth, jaws or face), Munch’s painting may seem eerily illustrative of their suffering. But those with orofacial pain don’t have to live in agony. Most common facial pain syndromes are short-lived and treatable. There are more severe types of orofacial pain, but research into those disorders is promising. Trigeminal Neuralgia is one such orofacial pain. 

October 7th 2016 is International Trigeminal Neuralgia Awareness Day and Pain Relief Ireland wants to provide you with information about this condition and possible ways of its treatment. You may not be a sufferer yourself but understanding the condition may help your friends, colleagues and loved ones get through another day

Trigeminal Neuralgia (TN) is one of the most painful conditions ever known to humankind. The disorder is rather rare, however, many organizations raise public awareness of it. Pain Relief Ireland want to mark International Trigeminal Neuralgia Awareness Day on October 7 in order to educate people about TN.

International Trigeminal Neuralgia Awareness Day was established 2013 (Trigeminal Since then this day is marked by in trigeminal neuralgia and facial pain associations, situated in the USA, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and France. Observation of this day is aimed at providing people with information about this condition and possible ways of its treatment.

What is Trigeminal Neuralgia?

Trigeminal neuralgia is characterized by intense facial pain originated from the trigeminal nerve. The pain is so intense, that this condition was dubbed “suicide disease”. It's estimated that 1 person in 15,000-20,000 suffers from this condition, however, the real figure may be higher due to misdiagnoses. During recent years the cases of TN drew much attention after several celebrities were diagnosed with this condition.

What do I need to know about Trigeminal Neurlgia?

Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) is characterised by sudden usually unilateral severe, brief, stabbing, recurrent episodes of pain in the distribution of one or more branches of the trigeminal nerve. This is the area of your face ranging from the temple to the jaw. 

Diagnosis is largely based on clinical history due to the current lack of objective investigations. 

MRI can identify those patients who have TN secondary to an underlying pathology such as microvessel compression (where the blood vessel lie on the nerve) or a seconsary diagnosis multiple sclerosis. Dr. Hegarty will always undertake an MRI to exclude this as a cause.

The first line medical management remains carbamazepine, with oxcarbazepine being the second choice medication. 

Both percutaneous techniques targeting the Gasserian ganglion and microvascular decompression can be considered effective in the management of TN. Microvascular decompression is considered to provide on average, the longest pain free period post surgery. 

Pain interventions are possible but often they carry the greater risk of aggervating the facial pain. Each case will be assessed by the Pain Relief Ireland Team and you will be advised accordingly. 

Pychological support is a very imporant aspect of this condition. This is not only for the sufferer but for those immeditely in contact.

Due to a dearth of high quality studies in many aspects of the condition, TN requires further research to be conducted. 

At Pain Relief Ireland Dr. Hegarty (Clinical Director) assess each case and will help put a program in place that meets your specific needs.

4 Steps to help you control TN

1. Practice Healthy Habits

Get adequate rest, eat a healthy diet and engage in regular exercise. (Ask your doctor which exercises are safe for you.) Relaxation techniques like meditation, visualization, hypnosis, and biofeedback may also help you feel better.

2. Care for your Emotional Health

People in chronic pain have been found to have an increased incidence of depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances. Your physician may want to prescribe medication or may suggest cognitive behavioral therapy (like relaxation techniques and psychological therapy). It may also help to share your thoughts and feelings with loved ones and to join a support group. (TNA has support groups throughout the country and across the world).

3. Know Your Treatment Options

There are many options for treating your pain beyond prescription and over-the-counter medicine. Complementary and alternative therapies include biofeedback, meditation, relaxation techniques, yoga, acupuncture and physical therapy. There are also interventional treatments for specific types of pain (like electrical stimulation and injections). Ask your doctor which is best for you.

4. See someone who is active in the treatment of neuropathic facial pain to help.

You can ask for a referral from your primary care physician. It is never to late to get an opinion and make sure you are aware of the best options for you.


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