Migraine and Trigeminal Neuralgia
Last updated: October 2023
Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) is a chronic pain disorder that causes sudden, severe facial pain. This pain is usually on 1 side – but can sometimes be on both sides – of the face. TN is the most common kind of facial pain in people 50 years or older. It is also more common in women than in men.1-3
TN happens because of an issue with the trigeminal nerve. This is a major nerve branch that allows your brain and face to communicate about touch and pain. In TN, the trigeminal nerve is often injured or unable to communicate properly with the brain. This can cause it to transmit pain signals too frequently.1-3
What are the symptoms of TN?
The main symptom of TN is sudden, intense pain typically on only 1 side of the face. This pain< often feels like a sensation that is any of the following:1,2
You may also feel numbness or tingling. Pain attacks typically focus on the lower face and jaw. But the pain may also sometimes spread to the area around the nose or eyes.1,2
What are the different kinds of TN?
There are 2 types of TN. Type 1 is the “classic” type of TN. It causes extreme, sudden, and burning or shooting facial pain that can last from a few seconds to 2 minutes. Multiple TN attacks can happen close together, in periods of up to 2 hours. Type 2 TN is a constant, usually less severe, burning or stabbing pain. It is a less common form of TN.1
It is possible to have both Types 1 and 2 TN at the same time. In both types of TN, attacks often cluster together before symptoms pause for a period of time.1
Sometimes, TN is progressive. This means attacks can become more severe or more frequent as time goes on.1
What is TN’s connection to migraine?
Studies have shown people who have migraine attacks are more likely to develop TN than those who do not. In 1 study, the rate of people with migraine who develop TN jumped from 20 in 100,000 people in a year to 137 in 100,000. This increase suggests having migraine may put someone at greater risk for TN.3
Not much is understood about how TN and migraine are linked. The exact mechanisms are unknown, but some experts believe that the trigeminal nerve may be involved. Migraine can cause inflammation in the tissue around the trigeminal nerve. The trigeminal nerve receives these inflammatory signals and becomes inflamed as well. This can cause the nerve to become irritated.3
People with migraine and Type 2 TN may have a hard time telling the 2 conditions apart. Type 2 TN can cause more pain in the head. Type 2 TN is easier than Type 1 TN to be confused with migraine. This is because Type 1 TN tends to cause more pain in the face. This is why other causes of pain should be considered for people who have migraine.2
If you have migraine and suspect that you may have TN, talk to your doctor about your symptoms and the best options for you.2
Are the family and friends you will be seeing this holiday season understanding about migraine?