Imagine shocks radiating across your cheek, a knife cutting into your skin or the feeling of hot coal burning your face, but not being able to find relief from the pain for months, or even years.
That's what some trigeminal neuralgia patients say they endure on a regular basis.
Trigeminal neuralgia is a facial pain disorder associated with the trigeminal nerve, which carries sensation from your brain to your face. Slight touches to the face, whether it's a breeze, hair falling onto your temple or simply brushing your teeth, may trigger flashes of pain. The pain is most commonly caused by a blood vessel pushing on the trigeminal nerve. There is no cure.
It affects approximately 12 out of every 100,000 people per year, according to the National Institute of Health, and is more common in women and people over 50.
"Trigeminal neuralgia is an uncommon disease and as a result, most physicians have very little experience with it. That is one of the reasons it's difficult to diagnose," said Ronald Brisman, a New York neurosurgeon who specializes in the disorder.