OUCH(UK) Organisation for the Understanding of Cluster Headache

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Trigeminal Neuralgia (TN)

Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) was first described in medical literature in the late 18th century and is still often referred to as Tic Douloureux. Unlike cluster headache (CH) and the other short lasting primary headaches, it is classified as a secondary headache due to a disorder of the 5th and largest cranial nerve (the trigeminal) and it manifests itself as very short episodes of intense, electric-shock like pain in the eyes, nose, scalp, forehead, jaws, and even the lips.

As with CH, the pain is most likely to be one-sided, but some sufferers experience the pain at different times on both sides. TN can begin at any age but sufferers are most likely to start suffering in their 50s. Unlike CH, however, TN attacks can be physically triggered by touch, and hence normal routines such as teeth brushing, applying make-up or even a slight breeze can trigger an attack. A less common form of the disorder is called atypical trigeminal neuralgia which is less intense, but causes constant, dull, boring or aching pain, sometimes accompanied with the electric-shock like stabs of pain.

TN can normally be successfully treated with medications called anticonvulsants; namely carbamazapine, dilantin, carbatrol or trileptal. Intractable chronic cases of the condition often require surgery.

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