How Facial Pain Could Be Linked to a Neurological Issue

3 mins
How Facial Pain Could Be Linked to a Neurological Issue

If you experience facial pain, you likely do not leap to the assumption that its cause is a neurological condition. Why would you? There are plenty of more common reasons for facial pain. But, in some rare cases, certain types of facial pain can be the result of a neurological condition called trigeminal neuralgia. 

This condition is not very common and affects women and people over 50 more frequently. However, anyone can be diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia. But that does not mean that all facial pain is related to a neurological issue. Here’s a summary of how to identify facial nerve pain, and what to expect.

Facial Nerve Pain Explained

Facial nerve pain caused by trigeminal neuralgia is often described as being severe, sharp, and abrupt. It is often compared to an electrical shock. Episodes of facial nerve pain are triggered seemingly without warning, or with a very mild trigger. For instance, gently touching your face or brushing your teeth could cause a painful sensation from trigeminal neuralgia. Other commonly occurring symptoms include:

  • Pain accompanied by facial spasms
  • Painful episodes lasting only a few seconds to several minutes
  • Long periods of no pain at all, followed by short bursts of pain

Facial nerve pain from trigeminal neuralgia is also usually concentrated in certain areas. The pain typically occurs in areas affected by the trigeminal nerve. This includes the cheeks, jaw, and mouth. In rare cases, it may affect the eyes or forehead. The pain will often only affect one side of the face at a time.

Other Facial Pain Causes

Of course, there are plenty of other facial pain causes to rule out before assuming the pain is neurological. Other common causes of facial pain include:

  • Migraines
  • Sinus infection
  • Salivary gland infection
  • Dental problems

Understanding and diagnosing the cause of your atypical facial pain is key to finding the right course of treatment. And luckily, trigeminal neuralgia is treatable.

When to Seek Treatment for Atypical Facial Pain

You should see a doctor if you experience prolonged or recurrent facial pain with no obvious remedy. Most people will try over-the-counter remedies, such as pain relievers, in an attempt to reduce their atypical face pain. But aspirin or ibuprofen do not alleviate facial nerve pain. If this is the case for you, you should schedule an appointment with a doctor at your earliest convenience.

When seeking a diagnosis for facial nerve pain, your doctor may conduct a simple neurological test. This can help identify affected regions of the trigeminal nerve, and also helps to rule out other facial pain causes. In some cases, doctors may also order an MRI or other imaging tests. This is done to rule out other conditions, such as a tumor or multiple sclerosis.

Is Facial Nerve Pain Treatable?

Thankfully, facial nerve pain from trigeminal neuralgia is treatable. It simply requires a diagnosis to set a treatment plan.

In many cases, medication is all that is required to get rid of facial nerve pain. Doctors may prescribe anticonvulsants to reduce abnormal electrical activity impacting the nerve. These medications have a very high success rate. 

However, in some cases, patients may stop responding to their anticonvulsant medication. If an increased dosage doesn’t work, other treatment options are available. These include a range of surgical options to remove or treat the damaged blood vessels affecting the trigeminal nerve.

While atypical facial pain from trigeminal neuralgia may be highly discomforting, it is almost always treatable. On top of that, it is not typically followed by other complications, and does not leave permanent damage after treatment.

To learn more about treatment options for this or other neurological conditions, read about BASS Medical Group’s neurological treatment services.