By Dr. Ruchi Gupta, Pain Management
The face is the index of the mind. Any pain suffered by the face can just be painful to the mind too, making one off-track. Though not much importance is given to facial pain, the underlying causes may pose a serious threat.
Neuropathic facial pain:
The face along with the oral cavity is connected to the brain with the help of the trigeminal nerve. As the name indicates, a trigeminal nerve has three branches that carry signals from the upper, the middle and the lower portions of the face. In rare cases, mostly among people over the age of 50, intense flashes of pain can be triggered by mild movement of the cheek, brushing the teeth, eating drinking, talking or just by being exposed to the wind. Usually, this pain starts from one side of the face and hence they are termed as unilateral facial pain. When the pain migrates to both the sides of the face it is termed as bilateral facial pain.
Types of facial pain:
The International Association for the study of pain and the International headache society have worked together to classify pain by analyzing its psychosocial effects as well as orofacial conditions. The facial pain falls into three main groups as mentioned below -
3. Neurological / Vascular
Causes of facial pain:
- The most prominent cause of facial pain is trigeminal neuralgia, which affects one side of the face leading to brief “electric shock-like” pain. This condition happens when the protective sheath of the trigeminal nerve, called myelin, starts to deteriorate. This phenomenon sends abnormal signals along the nerve thereby causing pain. Many factors like aging, multiple sclerosis and tumors are believed to cause deterioration.
- Another prevalent cause is less common, called atypical trigeminal neuralgia, which causes bearable dull burning or throbbing pain.
- Musculoligamentous facial pain is caused by any external force impacting the underlying facial musculature, thereby causing swelling and inflammation. However, the severity of pain depends on the impact factor.
- Orofacial pain is caused majorly by any form of dental ailments. They may be highly intense and prolonged if left untreated.
- The Temporomandibular joint syndrome may cause facial pain related to gum chewing, chewing on one side more frequently, missing teeth and intake of hard-to-chew foods more often.
- Other less common causes of facial pains are:
- Sinus infection
- Post-therapeutic neuralgia
- Previous nerve injury
- Ear infection
Facial pain may range from benign to malignant. Hence it is recommended that one is aware of the causes and the symptoms. The diagnosis must be carried out with precision so that the treatment is effective. It is always better to be extra careful and equip yourself with the details of any medical conditions before jumping to conclusions.