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Trigeminal Neuralgia

Trigeminal Neuralgia is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Clinical Consult.

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  • A painful disorder of the sensory nucleus of the trigeminal nerve (cranial nerve [CN] V) that produces episodic, paroxysmal, severe, lancinating facial pain lasting seconds to minutes in the distribution of ≥1 divisions of the nerve
  • Often precipitated by stimulation of well-defined, ipsilateral trigger zones: usually perioral, perinasal, and, occasionally, intraoral (e.g., by washing, shaving)
  • System(s) affected: nervous
  • Synonym(s): tic douloureux, Fothergill neuralgia, trifacial neuralgia, prosopalgia


  • Women: 5.9/100,000/year
  • Men: 3.4/100,000/year
  • >70 years of age: ~25.6/100,000/year
  • Predominant age:
    • >50 years; incidence increases with age.
    • Rare: <35 years of age (consider another primary disease; see “Etiology and Pathophysiology”)
  • Predominant sex: female > male (~2:1)


Pediatric Considerations
Unusual during childhood

Pregnancy Considerations
Teratogenicity limits therapy for 1st and 2nd trimesters.

Etiology and Pathophysiology

  • Demyelination around the compression site seems to be the mechanism by which compression of nerves leads to symptoms.
  • Demyelinated lesions may set up an ectopic impulse generation causing erratic responses: hyperexcitability of damaged nerves and transmission of action potentials along adjacent, undamaged, unstimulated sensory fibers
  • Compression of trigeminal nerve by anomalous arteries or veins of posterior fossa, compressing trigeminal root
  • Etiologic classification:
    • Idiopathic (classic)
    • Secondary: cerebellopontine angle tumors (e.g., meningioma); tumors of CN V (e.g., neuroma, vascular malformations), trauma, demyelinating disease (e.g., multiple sclerosis [MS])

Risk Factors


Commonly Associated Conditions

  • Sjögren syndrome; rheumatoid arthritis
  • Chronic meningitis
  • Acute polyneuropathy
  • MS
  • Hemifacial spasm
  • Charcot-Marie-Tooth neuropathy
  • Glossopharyngeal neuralgia

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Stephens, Mark B., et al., editors. "Trigeminal Neuralgia." 5-Minute Clinical Consult, 27th ed., Wolters Kluwer, 2019. Medicine Central, im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/116617/all/Trigeminal_Neuralgia.
Trigeminal Neuralgia. In: Stephens MB, Golding J, Baldor RA, et al, eds. 5-Minute Clinical Consult. 27th ed. Wolters Kluwer; 2019. https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/116617/all/Trigeminal_Neuralgia. Accessed March 22, 2019.
Trigeminal Neuralgia. (2019). In Stephens, M. B., Golding, J., Baldor, R. A., & Domino, F. J. (Eds.), 5-Minute Clinical Consult. Available from https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/116617/all/Trigeminal_Neuralgia
Trigeminal Neuralgia [Internet]. In: Stephens MB, Golding J, Baldor RA, Domino FJ, editors. 5-Minute Clinical Consult. Wolters Kluwer; 2019. [cited 2019 March 22]. Available from: https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/116617/all/Trigeminal_Neuralgia.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - ELEC T1 - Trigeminal Neuralgia ID - 116617 ED - Stephens,Mark B, ED - Golding,Jeremy, ED - Baldor,Robert A, ED - Domino,Frank J, BT - 5-Minute Clinical Consult, Updating UR - https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/116617/all/Trigeminal_Neuralgia PB - Wolters Kluwer ET - 27 DB - Medicine Central DP - Unbound Medicine ER -