When facial pain becomes a clinical problem When facial pain becomes a clinical problem

Trigeminal neuralgia is an extreme pain similar to a shock, burning sensation or electric pain in the face.

This is a chronic pain disorder that affects the trigeminal nerve, which transmits the sensations of the face to the brain. The feeling can be so extreme, and the fear of future attacks can be so stressful, that performing day-to-day tasks can become a challenge.

This pain in the face can last for a few seconds or minutes and then it can diminish and repeat. Usually, these cycles occur for a few days or weeks and then stop for years. This situation can be triggered by normal activities such as chewing, smiling, talking, shaving or brushing your teeth. Some people who have trigeminal neuralgia feel numbness or tingling in the face days before it occurs. The MedlinePlus webpage answers some of the most commonly-asked questions about this disorder.

  • Who can get it? Anyone can get it, but it occurs more often in people over age 50. Women are more likely to have it than men and the condition appears to be hereditary.
  • What tests can help make a diagnosis? There is no specific test and it is often determined by ruling out other possible causes of your pain. A specialist will determine a treatment plan according to each case, which usually includes medications, injections or surgery.

Related article: Fibromyalgia: A throbbing and misunderstood pain (article in Spanish)