What is neuralgia?
An 'attack' of neuralgia is where you suddenly feel a kind of stabbing pain in one side of your face. This can be caused by certain triggers or for no apparent reason.
Neuralgia in both sides of the face is very rare. In fact, only 3 in 100 people with the condition suffer from neuralgia attacks on both sides of their face. Overall, the condition is more common in middle-aged people and the elderly.
Some people describe the pain (which is actually a nerve pain) as an electric shock or a burning feeling which last for a few seconds at a time or even for a few minutes, depending upon the severity of the attack.
The attacks usually happen as a result of a range of triggers (e.g., through smiling, walking on a windy day, while talking or singing, or even while shaving in the mornings). Attacks can also be numerous, coming and going several times throughout a 24-hour period.
Despite extensive worldwide research, the exact cause of neuralgia is as yet unknown. However, many medical professionals strongly agree and suggest that the symptoms of neuralgia occur when a blood vessel in the face presses down suddenly on the trigeminal nerve.
If you have multiple sclerosis you are at higher risk of developing neuralgia, due to the nerve damage associated with your disease.
If you are suffering from the aforementioned symptoms, arrange an appointment with your GP. They will take your medical history, ask your some questions about your symptoms, and then carry out a short physical examination. An appropriate treatment will then be recommended to you.
Note: Sometimes neuralgia can be difficult to diagnose due to its symptoms being very similar to other conditions, such as severe and sudden headaches and/or migraines, and also jaw problems.
Effect on your life
Although not a life-threatening condition as such, a neuralgia attack can be extremely dangerous if you are driving or operating machinery and simply cannot carry on or retain control of your actions due to the sheer severity of your facial pain. That said, in most circumstances a neuralgia attack can be simply a short yet mildly unpleasant inconvenience that passes after a couple of minutes.
Most people find that they get used to neuralgia and cope with it overall without having to take measures, such as giving up work or requiring the help of a carer.
Neuralgia is usually treated with prescribed medicines, such as Carbamazepine. The dosage of these medicines can be increased, depending upon the severity of your attacks.
Where prescribed medicines prove unsuccessful, surgery may be considered (but only in rare cases).
Advice and Support
Brain and Spine Foundation
Tel. 020 7793 5900
Trigeminal Neuralgia Association UK
Tel. 01883 370214
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