Trigeminal neuralgia (sometimes called tic douloureux) is a sudden,
sharp pain on one side of the face. The pain commonly starts near one side of
the mouth, then shoots toward the ear, eye, or nostril on the same side of the
The pain may start with a touch, movement, air drafts, eating, or
for no known reason. Symptom-free periods, called remissions, may last several
months or longer. As the condition gets worse, though, the episodes of pain
become more frequent, remissions become shorter and less common, and a dull
ache may remain between the episodes of stabbing pain.
Trigeminal neuralgia is most common in middle and late life. It
affects women more often than men. When trigeminal neuralgia occurs in young
people, it is often caused by multiple sclerosis.
Treatment with medicine is usually helpful. Surgery may be
helpful if a structural problem (such as a blood vessel pressing on the
trigeminal nerve) is the cause.