Trigeminal neuralgia (tic douloureux) is a condition that affects the trigeminal nerve (the 5th cranial nerve), one of the largest nerves in the head. The trigeminal nerve is responsible for sending sensation of touch, pain, pressure, and temperature to the brain from the face, jaw, gums, forehead, and around the eyes. Trigeminal neuralgia is characterized by a sudden, severe, electric shock-like or stabbing pain typically felt on one side of the jaw or cheek. The disorder is more common in women than in men and rarely affects anyone younger than 50. The attacks of pain generally last several seconds and may be repeated one after the other. They may be triggered by talking, brushing teeth, touching the face, chewing, or swallowing. The attacks may come and go throughout the day and last for days, weeks, or months at a time, and then disappear for months or years.
Treatment of trigeminal neuralgia is principally with carbemazepine - a drug used to control epilepsy. Baclofen, clonazepam, gabapentin, and valproic acid may also be effective and may be used in combination to achieve pain relief. If medication fails to relieve pain, surgical treatment may be recommended.
It is a very debilitating disease, but not fatal. It can recur after periods of remission following treatment.