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10 Interesting Facts About Trigeminal Neuralgia – The Suicide Disease

Trigeminal neuralgia is a nerve disorder characterized by severe, stabbing pain in multiple parts of the face supplied by the trigeminal nerve.

And this pain can be so bad that people are known to throw themselves off tall buildings just to escape living through this nightmare, which is why this disorder is also known as the "suicide disease".

So, here are 10 interesting facts about trigeminal neuralgia that you probably didn't know.

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The Exact Cause Is Not Known

Fact #1

While doctors and scientists have come up with a large number of reasons why people suffer from this condition, when you boil it all down to the basics, the exact cause behind this painful condition is not known.

But here are some of the possible causes.

  • Compression of nerve root by a large blood vessel
  • Brain lesion
  • Damage to myelin sheath of the nerve
  • Ageing

It Is More Common In Women

Fact #2

Although trigeminal neuralgia is a pretty rare condition (affecting less than 1 out of 1 million people in India), it is more commonly observed in women above the age of 50.

It Is Trigger Happy!

Fact #3

The pain of trigeminal neuralgia is excruciating and debilitating. And episodes of it can be triggered by the most inane daily activities, like brushing your teeth, combing your hair, eating food, and smiling.

In fact, episodes can also be triggered by a simple gust of wind against the patient's face or a light touch.

The Pain Is...Weird

Fact #4

The pain experienced by people suffering from trigeminal neuralgia is the weirdest and most excruciating pain ever.

It feels like your face is simultaneously being hit by a lightning bolt, being weighed down by a ten-tonne block of iron, and burned by the most noxious and dangerous acid.

Many People Mistakenly Think Their Pain Is Caused By Severe Toothache

Fact #5

Historically speaking, before a lot was known about this disorder, people would often get multiple back teeth extracted thinking they were the cause of the excruciating pain.

But now dentists are more well learned about this condition and so refer such patients to the neurologist for treatment.

Painkillers Don’t Work

Fact #6

It's because the pain experienced by people suffering from trigeminal neuralgia originates from the fifth cranial nerve, and therefore, painkillers cannot treat it.

Painkillers only work on the pain caused by inflammation or vascular dilatation (like in headaches).

But Anticonvulsants Do!

Fact #7

We have advanced quite a lot in the medical field, but doctors still have not found a fool-proof cure for trigeminal neuralgia.

Nevertheless, 80% of trigeminal neuralgia cases can be treated with anticonvulsant (seizure) medications like gabapentin and trileptal.

Surgery May Or May Not Work

Fact #8

For the remaining 20% of the population on whom anticonvulsants fail to reduce the pain, doctors try different surgeries to deal with the problem.

Nevertheless, it is not a 100% solution to the problem and often the condition still persists after surgery.

It Brings Some Nasty Friends Along With It

Fact #9

Statistically speaking, a large number of patients suffering from trigeminal neuralgia also develop multiple sclerosis (and vice versa).

Plus, these patients can also suffer from migraines and cluster headaches.

Many Famous Personalities Suffer From This Condition

Fact #10

From Salman Khan to Gloria Steinem, there are many famous personalities who suffer from this nightmarish condition and have helped spread awareness of it among the general population.

In fact, Salman Khan once famously said, "If there was a choice to give this pain to my worst enemy, I would not give it. They wouldn't be able to take it."

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Story first published: Thursday, January 11, 2018, 17:00 [IST]
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