Trigeminal Neuralgia

Trigeminal Neuralgia is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Emergency Consult.

To view the entire topic, please or purchase a subscription.

Emergency Central is a collection of disease, drug, and test information including 5-Minute Emergency Medicine Consult, Davis’s Drug, McGraw-Hill Medical’s Diagnosaurus®, Pocket Guide to Diagnostic Tests, and MEDLINE Journals created for emergency medicine professionals. Explore these free sample topics:

Emergency Central

-- The first section of this topic is shown below --



  • The trigeminal nerve (cranial nerve [CN] V) innervates the face, oral mucosa, nasal mucosa, and cornea with its sensory fibers
  • Trigeminal neuralgia is also known as tic douloureux:
    • Tic = spasmodic muscular contraction or movement
    • Douloureux = painful
  • Usually occurs in patients >50 yr of age
  • Facial pain syndrome recognizable by history alone
  • Classical:
    • Paroxysmal attacks of unilateral (uncommonly bilateral) pain affecting 1 or more divisions of the trigeminal nerve
    • Has 1 of the following characteristics:
      • Superficial, sharp, or stabbing pain
      • Precipitated from trigger areas or factors
    • Lasts for <1 sec–2 min
    • Episodes are stereotyped in each individual
    • No clinically evident neurologic deficit
    • Not caused by another disorder
  • Symptomatic:
    • Same as above but a causative lesion (not vascular compression) is identified
  • Most common age group is 50–60 yr
  • Females > males


  • Mechanism of pain production remains controversial; accepted theory suggests:
    • Demyelination of CN, leading to ectopic stimulation and pain:
      • Demyelination caused by tortuous or aberrant vascular compression of nerve root
      • 80–90% of classical trigeminal neuralgia have compression
      • Superior cerebellar artery is the most common (75%)
      • Anterior inferior cerebellar artery (10%)
  • Secondary causes:
    • Herpes zoster
    • Multiple sclerosis
    • Space-occupying lesions:
      • Cerebropontine angle tumor
      • Aneurysm
      • Arteriovenous malformation

-- To view the remaining sections of this topic, please or purchase a subscription --