What causes trigeminal neuralgia?
Trigeminal neuralgia occurs when the trigeminal nerve is pinched or damaged.
The trigeminal nerve connects many different parts of your face to your brain. It is made up of three branches. The upper branch links the brain to the scalp and forehead. The middle branch connects to the cheek, side of the nose, top lip, and upper jaw, teeth and gums. The lower branch travels through the lower jaw, teeth, gums, and bottom lip.
Often, the damaged area of the nerve is located at the base of the brain where the nerve leaves the skull and extends to parts of the face. The nerve may be damaged from a blood vessel that grows too close and presses on the nerve or wears away the nerve’s protective coating (called myelin). Damage to the nerve can also result when extra pressure is put on the nerve by something else, such as a tumor. In many cases, a cause of the nerve damage cannot be found.
Who is at risk for trigeminal neuralgia?
Anyone can get trigeminal neuralgia, but it happens most often in people older than 50 years of age. It’s also more common in people who have multiple sclerosis, because multiple sclerosis damages the myelin that protects the nerves. Women are more likely to get it than men, and the condition seems to be passed down in families, probably because relatives’ blood vessels form in similar ways.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff