Trigeminal neuralgia has to be one of the worst disorders that people with multiple sclerosis (MS) experience. It’s one of the types of pain described as “neurogenic pain” or “primary pain,” meaning it’s the direct result of the disease process of multiple sclerosis, caused by demyelination and lesions on a specific nerve.
What Does Trigeminal Neuralgia Feel Like?
Trigeminal neuralgia, often called tic doloureux (French for “painful twitch”), is perhaps the most intensely painful MS-related symptom.
It can be described most commonly as:
- occurring in the lower part of the face (often triggered by talking, chewing, drinking, or brushing one’s teeth)
- almost always occurs on just one side of the face (and is more common on the right than left side)
- intense, sharp pain, like an electrical jolt
- usually, the most intense pain is short-lived (from a few seconds to up to two minutes), but can result in a more constant burning or aching
Trigeminal neuralgia can also have the following characteristics:
- extending as far as the ear, and sometimes mistaken for the pain of an ear infection
- can be triggered by loud sounds or a cold gust of air
In addition, given the location and nature of the pain associated with trigeminal neuralgia, it’s often mistaken for dental pain. This could lead to unnecessary (and irreversible) procedures like tooth extractions, root canals, and even procedures to reposition the jaw.
Make sure that you see your neurologist if you are experiencing this kind of pain, especially before undergoing any kind of drastic dental work.
Finally, each “bout” or episode of trigeminal neuralgia usually lasts a couple of weeks. However, episodes tend to recur and can happen as often as every couple of months, although some people will go years between episodes.
Unfortunately, as time passes, the time between bouts generally gets shorter.