Can Stress Cause Trigeminal Neuralgia?The exact cause of trigeminal neuralgia is not known. A number of physical causes can lead to this condition but can stress cause trigeminal neuralgia? Below, we look at the role stress plays in this painful and distressing disorder.


What Is Trigeminal Neuralgia?

  • Trigeminal neuralgia, also known as tic douloureux, is a painful disorder affecting the trigeminal nerve, (also known as the fifth cranial nerve). Neuralgia means pain that follows along the path of a nerve.
  • There are two trigeminal nerves – one on either side of your face.
  • Each nerve has three main branches so giving the name trigeminal (“tri” meaning three).
  • Trigeminal neuralgia can affect one or more of these branches and the location of your pain depends on which one(s) are affected.
  • The nerve carries sensations such as touch, pain, temperature, and pressure from your face to your brain.


Symptoms of Trigeminal Neuralgia


Pain is the main symptom and is cauterized by the following:

  • Trigeminal neuralgia occurs on only one side, involving the upper, middle and/or lower portions of your face. It can be felt in the cheek, jaw, teeth, gums, and lips. Occasionally pain is felt around the eye and forehead.
  • The pain is described as severe, intense, stabbing, or like an electric shock-like shooting through the face, neck, and head.
  • It can be so severe that you may suddenly experience a physical jerk when the pain strikes.
  • Attacks are sudden and typically brief, lasting from only seconds to two minutes.

Each attack may come on spontaneously (without warning) or be triggered. Common triggers include:

  • Touching your face
  • Eating
  • Drinking
  • Brushing your teeth
  • Talking
  • Putting on makeup
  • Encountering a breeze
  • Smiling
  • Washing your face or shaving
  • Attacks become more frequent and intense over time if left untreated.


Causes of Trigeminal Neuralgia

The exact cause isn’t known.

Evidence suggests that up to 95% of trigeminal neuralgia is caused by pressure on the trigeminal nerve. In most cases, the pressure is caused by an artery or vein compressing the trigeminal nerve. This compression causes damage to the protective coating around the nerve (the myelin sheath).

Trigeminal neuralgia can occur due to a variety of causes including:

  • The aging process
  • Conditions such as multiple sclerosis, where the myelin sheath protecting certain nerves becomes damaged.
  • A tumor pressing on the trigeminal nerve
  • Surgical injuries
  • Stroke
  • Facial trauma


The Role of Stress

Stress is not the primary cause of trigeminal neuralgia. However, it has been identified as playing a role in triggering, and maintaining trigeminal neuralgia, especially where the condition has become chronic.

  • Some patients have reported the onset of trigeminal neuralgia following major stressful life events such as divorce, death of close relatives, and unemployment/change of job.
  • Clinical studies have shown that psychological stress can make trigeminal neuralgia symptoms worse.
  • Suffering from trigeminal neuralgia can be stressful in itself. You may find it more difficult to cope with other stressful events in your life, in addition to living with this painful condition. It can become a vicious circle.
  • The pain associated with trigeminal neuralgia can occur suddenly and unpredictably. Not knowing when or where such the next attack might happen can lead to anxiety and stress. This can have a detrimental effect on your day-to-day life. It may mean having to have time off work or restricting your social activities.


Can stress cause trigeminal neuralgia?

Stress is not the primary cause but has been identified as playing a role in triggering and maintaining this painful and unpredictable condition.