Facial pain: causes, symptoms, treatment, prognosis

Facial pain or trigeminal neuralgia can be described as nerve pain in the face. The cause often remains unclear. The pain usually occurs in people over fifty years of age. What are the symptoms, is treatment possible and what is the prognosis? On which websites can you find more information? Contact with fellow sufferers may help.

Article content

  • Facial pain or trigeminal neuralgia
  • Trigeminal nerve or triplet nerve
  • Types of facial pain
  • Causes of facial pain
  • Symptoms of facial pain
  • Diagnosis of facial pain
  • Treatment of facial pain
  • Prognosis of facial pain
  • Fellow sufferers


Facial pain or trigeminal neuralgia

With facial pain you suffer from severe pain on one side of the face. The pain can be caused by pressure, but inflammation or another condition of the root of the sensory nerve of the face can also be the cause. This sensory nerve is also called the trigeminal nerve or triplet nerve. Facial pain is more common in people over the age of fifty and it is more common in men than in women.

Trigeminal nerve or triplet nerve

The trigeminal nerve transports sensory signals from the face to the brain. The sensory nerve also moves the chewing muscles.

Types of facial pain

Typical facial pain: the pain is caused by compression or compression of the vessels. This is also called vascular compression. There is a blood vessel that knocks against the trigenimus nerve, which causes irritation.
Atypical facial pain: if there are other causes underlying the facial pain, the term atypical facial pain is used.

Causes of facial pain

The cause often remains unclear. Multiple sclerosis can cause symptoms in people under the age of fifty. The pain can also be caused by pressure from an abnormally dilated blood vessel (an aneurysm). There may also be a growth on the nerve root of the trigeminal nerve.

Symptoms of facial pain

  • Severe attacks of pain that last for a short time (a few seconds to a few minutes) on one side of the face. It can involve pain in the lip, but it can also involve the gums, nostrils or cheek.
  • These attacks of pain may occur more frequently.
  • Sometimes a person really can’t do anything during a pain attack.
  • Once an attack is over, the pain usually disappears completely.
  • You can suddenly suffer from an attack, but it can also happen with a certain movement, for example chewing, or while touching your face.
  • Characteristically, the attacks almost always occur during the day and almost never during the night.


Diagnosis of facial pain

A doctor will make the diagnosis based on the complaints. There are no specific studies to diagnose facial pain. The complaints may be caused by something else, such as a toothache or an inflammation of the sinus. A referral to a neurologist may be necessary for further examination such as an MRI scan (magnetic resonance imaging). It can then be checked whether the pain is not caused by a tumor or an aneurysm.

Treatment of facial pain

  • Carbamazepine helps seventy-five percent of people who suffer from facial pain. If this medication does not work, other medications can be chosen.
  • Surgery may be necessary if a tumor or blood vessel presses on the nerve root.
  • If nothing helps, you can choose to make the face numb. This can be done by cutting the nerve or using an injection of alcohol. It is rarely done.
  • Sometimes the nerve is destroyed with heat to reduce pain.


Prognosis of facial pain

  • Treatment usually reduces the symptoms.
  • If the face is made numb, the pain will no longer return. However, you should no longer consume hot food or hot drinks because a burn could occur. After all, you no longer feel any pain.
  • The attacks may stop spontaneously, they may also come back more often or the situation may remain the same for a long time.


Fellow sufferers

Facial pain can have a huge impact on daily life. Maybe it would be nice to talk about it with others and get tips. You can find information on, among other things, headachepatients.nl, although facial pain is not considered a headache. The Facial Pain working group of the NVvHP is very active and has its own website: aanzichtspijn.nl. Everyone has access to this website, there is also a forum.

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