Causes of Trigeminal Neuralgia

Written by jessica lietz
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Trigeminal neuralgia, which is also referred to as tic douloureux, is a long-term disorder of the nervous system that causes sudden attacks of pain in the face. Although the pain caused by trigeminal neuralgia only lasts for a second or two, it can impact the quality of life and the patient's ability to take part in normal daily activities; fortunately, there are treatments including surgery and medications to help treat this condition.


According to the Mayo Clinic, trigeminal neuralgia may be caused by ageing and damage to the nerves that occurs over time. Most people diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia are at least 50 years old when they develop symptoms. Older people may have other diseases such as diabetes or artery disease that can contribute to pain attacks caused by trigeminal neuralgia.


An abnormal growth or tumour in the head or neck may cause trigeminal neuralgia. As a tumour grows, it can pinch or irritate the trigeminal nerve and make it more sensitive to pain. The trigeminal nerve can also be compressed by the growth of a tumour, and the resulting pressure can cause the nerve to function improperly.


According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, heredity may be a cause of trigeminal neuralgia. Some people inherit disorders of the blood vessels that affect the trigeminal nerve. People with a family history of trigeminal neuralgia or other blood vessel disorders may be more likely to develop this disorder themselves.

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is a progressive and chronic disorder that causes damage to the nerves. The damage caused to the trigeminal nerve by multiple sclerosis may take years to develop.


According to the Beth Israel Medical Center Department of Pain Medicine and Palliative Care, stress may be a cause or trigger of trigeminal neuralgia. Stress can cause inflammation of blood vessels, which can compress or irritate the trigeminal nerve. In people who have trigeminal neuralgia due to another cause, stress and anxiety can trigger or worsen the severity of attacks.


Although a person's habits may not be a direct cause of trigeminal neuralgia, they may trigger the symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia in people who have the disorder. Normal parts of life including eating, shaving and brushing the teeth can trigger attacks. Other personal factors including talking, smiling or touching the face can also trigger trigeminal neuralgia symptoms.

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