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Learn about Trigeminal neuralgia

Trigeminal neuralgia, often characterized as one of the most excruciating pains known to medical science, affects the trigeminal nerve, which carries sensation from your face to your brain. This condition can lead to intense, shock-like or stabbing pain on one side of the face. Its prevalence is relatively rare, affecting about 12 in every 100,000 people yearly. Though it can occur at any age, it is more common in people over the age of 50 and affects women slightly more than men.


The primary cause of trigeminal neuralgia is pressure on the trigeminal nerve from a blood vessel, leading to malfunctioning of the nerve’s signaling. In some cases, the cause can be attributed to aging or diseases like multiple sclerosis which damage the myelin sheath protecting the nerve. However, a significant number of cases have no identifiable cause, termed idiopathic trigeminal neuralgia.


Signs and symptoms

- Sudden episodes of severe, shooting or jabbing pain that may feel like an electric shock - Spontaneous attacks of pain triggered by things such as touching the face, chewing, speaking, or brushing teeth - Attacks of pain lasting from a few seconds to several minutes - Episodes of clusters of attacks lasting days, weeks, or months, often with pain-free periods in between - Pain in areas supplied by the trigeminal nerve, including the cheek, jaw, teeth, gums, lips, or less often the eye and forehead - Pain affecting one side of the face at a time, though may rarely affect both sides - Pain that becomes more intense and frequent over time

Diagnosing Trigeminal neuralgia

Diagnosing trigeminal neuralgia involves a detailed medical history and physical examination by a healthcare provider. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be used to rule out other causes of facial pain and to look for underlying conditions like multiple sclerosis or tumors pressing on the trigeminal nerve. A definitive diagnosis primarily relies on patient description of symptoms, pain trigger zones, and response to certain medications.


Prevention and natural treatment

Preventing trigeminal neuralgia focuses on managing conditions that may contribute to nerve damage and maintaining overall nerve health. However, once trigeminal neuralgia is diagnosed, the treatment approach in functional medicine aims to reduce pain, improve nerve function, and minimize triggers of pain episodes. Natural treatments and functional medicine approaches may include: - Nutritional supplements such as magnesium, which plays a role in nerve function, and B vitamins that support nerve health. - Acupuncture, which has been suggested to relieve pain by altering nerve signaling and increasing endorphin release. - Stress management techniques including meditation and yoga, as stress can exacerbate pain episodes. - Anti-inflammatory diet aiming to reduce systemic inflammation and possibly decrease nerve irritation. This includes a diet rich in leafy greens, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants. - Physical therapy to relax muscles that may contribute to nerve compression and to improve posture, which can relieve pressure on the nerve. Additionally, some patients seek chiropractic care or biofeedback as complementary treatments to manage pain. It’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional experienced in treating trigeminal neuralgia to create a comprehensive and personalized treatment plan. While natural treatments can offer relief and support, they should ideally be part of a broader treatment strategy that may include medication or surgery in severe cases.

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