We're unable to sign you in at this time. Please try again in a few minutes.
We were able to sign you in, but your subscription(s) could not be found. Please try again in a few minutes.
There may be a problem with your account. Please contact the AMA Service Center to resolve this issue.
Contact the AMA Service Center:
Telephone: 1 (800) 262-2350 or 1 (312) 670-7827  *   Email: subscriptions@jamanetwork.com
Error Message ......
JAMA Patient Page |

Trigeminal Neuralgia FREE

Janet M. Torpy, MD; Jennifer Lee Rogers; Robert M. Golub
JAMA. 2013;309(10):1058. doi:10.1001/2012.jama.10806.
Text Size: A A A
Published online

Facial pain has a number of causes. Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) is named for the nerve (the trigeminal, or fifth cranial nerve) that is affected. Trigeminal neuralgia causes brief, intense, severe pain, usually on one side of the face or the jaw or near the eye. Trigeminal neuralgia is a type of neuropathicpain (pain caused by nerves).

Trigeminal neuralgia is more common in people older than 50 years and tends to affect women more than men. It may occur in other family members. Researchers think that TN is caused by pressure on the trigeminal nerve from a blood vessel. Persons with TN may be treated by neurologists, medical doctors who specialize in the treatment of conditions affecting the nerves and the brain.


  • Pain is sharp and can last a few seconds to several minutes. It often feels like an electric shock or stabbing but may feel like burning. There is no associated fever or swelling because it is not caused by an infection.

  • Pain may be triggered by simple actions such as chewing, brushing the teeth, puffs of air or wind on the face, or touching the face.

  • Episodes can come and go, sometimes with a long time between episodes (remission). The longer a person has TN, the shorter the remission periods. Some individuals have nearly constant episodes.

  • Because TN is chronic, unpredictable, and often severely painful, persons may also have depression or anxiety.


Trigeminal neuralgia is usually diagnosed by a medical history and physical examination. Other causes of facial pain should be considered because they may be treatable. Imaging studies such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are often helpful to exclude other causes of facial pain.


  • Although TN is not curable, it can usually be managed like any chronic medical condition. It is not fatal.

  • Antidepressant medications and antiseizure medications are often prescribed for persons with TN because they often improve neuropathic types of pain. Narcotic pain medication tends not to be helpful.

  • It may help to avoid things that trigger the pain.

  • If severe TN is not manageable with medications, consultation with a neurosurgeon may be recommended. A neurosurgeon is a doctor who specializes in surgery of the nerves, the brain, and the spinal cord. Medical devices or specialized surgeries may be offered to persons with severe TN.



To find this and previous JAMA Patient Pages, go to the Patient Page Index on JAMA 's website at www.jama.com. Many are available in English and Spanish. A Patient Page on pain management was published in the November 12, 2003, issue.

Sources: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, American Academy of Neurology

The JAMA Patient Page is a public service of JAMA. The information and recommendations appearing on this page are appropriate in most instances, but they are not a substitute for medical diagnosis. For specific information concerning your personal medical condition, JAMA suggests that you consult your physician. This page may be photocopied noncommercially by physicians and other health care professionals to share with patients. To purchase bulk reprints, call 312/464-0776.




Also Meets CME requirements for:
Browse CME for all U.S. States
Accreditation Information
The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
Note: You must get at least of the answers correct to pass this quiz.
Please click the checkbox indicating that you have read the full article in order to submit your answers.
Your answers have been saved for later.
You have not filled in all the answers to complete this quiz
The following questions were not answered:
Sorry, you have unsuccessfully completed this CME quiz with a score of
The following questions were not answered correctly:
Commitment to Change (optional):
Indicate what change(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.
Your quiz results:
The filled radio buttons indicate your responses. The preferred responses are highlighted
For CME Course: A Proposed Model for Initial Assessment and Management of Acute Heart Failure Syndromes
Indicate what changes(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.


Spanish Patient Page: Neuralgia del trigémino

Supplemental Content

Some tools below are only available to our subscribers or users with an online account.

0 Citations

Related Content

Customize your page view by dragging & repositioning the boxes below.

Related Collections
PubMed Articles