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Trigeminal neuralgia affects the trigeminal nerve, normally one of the largest nerves in the head. The trigeminal nerve sends impulses of touch, pain, pressure and temperature to the brain from the face, jaw, gums, forehead and around the eyes.
The most frequent cause of trigeminal neuralgia is a blood vessel pressing on the nerve near the brain stem. Over time, changes in the blood vessels of the brain can result in a blood vessel sagging and rubbing against the trigeminal nerve root. The constant rubbing with each heartbeat wears away the insulating membrane of the nerve, setting up a "short circuit" that results in facial pain.
Trigeminal neuralgia causes a sudden, severe, electric shock-like or stabbing pain that lasts several seconds. The pain can be felt on the face and around the lips, eyes, nose, scalp and forehead. Symptoms can occur when a person is brushing their teeth, putting on makeup, touching the face, swallowing or even feeling a slight breeze.
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