Trigeminal neuralgia is also known as tic douloureux. It has an effect on the trigeminal (fifth cranial) nerve, which supplies sensation to one side of the face. This situation tends to appear in adults in later years, and happen in episodes which becomes more frequent and more severe with time. There are fairly often intervals with no pain.
Patients typically explain severe, sharp pain that can be like an electric shock and most often affects the lower or upper jaw, and occasionally the forehead. It can be precipitated by touching these areas, chewing or talking.
In most cases, the reason is a loop of artery lying in contact with the trigeminal nerve, just as it approaches the brain stem. Less often it is a small vein. In a few percents of cases, the reason is a tumor usually benign, which is why all patients should have an MRI scan. If the tumor is found, surgery is often advised.