Imagine a pain so sharp and intense that you lose your breath when it comes out of nowhere. It is blinding, literally and figuratively, as it shoots across your face, across the top of your head, and down the sides of your neck. If you have trigeminal neuralgia, you don’t need to imagine this pain – you know it well. Knowing what causes trigeminal neuralgia to flare up is the first step in avoiding this breath-taking pain. Here are 12 of the most common trigeminal neuralgia triggers.

What is trigeminal neuralgia?

Trigeminal neuralgia is searing neuropathic facial pain that originates in the trigeminal nerve, located just behind the mandible near the temporomandibular joint. This nerve has three branches that transmit sensations from the face and inside the mouth to the brain.

There are a few different potential causes of trigeminal neuralgia, including:

  • Pressure on the trigeminal nerve, usually by a blood vessel exiting the brain stem, which wears away the protective coating around the nerve (the myelin sheath)
  • Multiple sclerosis, a disease that causes deterioration of the myelin sheath
  • Trigeminal nerve compression from a tumor
  • Arteriovenous malformation (tangled arteries and veins)
  • Injury to the trigeminal nerve (due to sinus surgery, oral surgery, stroke, or facial trauma)

This neuropathic facial pain can take many forms. Some patients experience sharp, electric jolts that last only a few second