10 Unnerving Facts About The ‘Suicide Disease’

The next reports of the condition appear in Somerset, England, in the 13th century. At the tomb of Bishop Button, one can see wall carvings of people depicted as suffering severe facial agony.

Historians suggest that this was a reference to what we now know as trigeminal neuralgia and not just toothaches. Button’s skeleton was later exhumed, and it possessed a set of nearly perfect teeth. Nevertheless, Button had been canonized and travelers came to give offerings at his grave in the hopes that the saint would relieve their toothaches.

Trigeminal neuralgia hit the mainstream medical world when famous physician John Locke described it in 1677. It received its first medical term, tic douloureux, from Nicolas Andre in 1756. Shortly after Andre’s study, John Fothergill wrote the first comprehensive description and understanding of the condition, and it was dubbed “Fothergill’s disease.”[1]

Fothergill identified it as a neurological condition rather than pains caused by the teeth, mouth, or tongue. Modern neurology now classifies it as trigeminal neuralgia, a reference to neuropathy of the fifth cranial nerve (the trigeminal nerve).

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