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Trigeminal Neuralgia


Buried in the bone and flesh of your face is a root-like twig of nerve tissue that is destroying your life. Deadpan comedian Steven Wright jokes about a switch in his apartment that he flips on and off that never does anything -- until he gets a call from Germany saying "Stop it!" Your pain seem to be controlled in the same way, as though a demon was flipping a switch on and off in your head, blasting you with electric shocks of intense, unendurable pain lasting only a second, sometimes caused by movement or a touch to your skin -- but often striking completely at random. Unable to sleep, smile or brush your teeth, you'll soon feel like the tortured victim of some diabolical experiment.

The agony is coming from the fifth of your twelve cranial nerves -- the Trigeminal nerve that normally relays pain and sensation from your face. Like a fitful lamp with a short-circuited cord, the irritated fibers send flashing pain signals when the nerve is stimulated. The most powerful narcotics only blunt the symptoms, leaving you groggy and miserable between attacks. These are days that will test the limits of your endurance. As the symptoms drag on for weeks, you may end up contemplating suicide.

Ironically, the origin of the pain may be mundane -- a toothache, sinus infection or a virus. Although medicines such as Neurontin or Carbamazipime can lower the nerve's pain threshold and ease the frequency of attacks, intractable cases require surgery or radiation as the only route to relief. But as is often the case for many other medical misfortunes -- your best strategy may be to wait it out. Although it is hard to get used to feeling an ice pick stabbed repeatedly into your face, the lancinating pain is likely to gradually subside within weeks -- often within just a few days. So forget about the gun or sleeping pills -- your cure may be waiting unexpectedly just around the corner. Perhaps you will be benefit from another Steven Wright concept -- voodoo acupuncture. You're walking down the street one day and suddenly go -- "ooooohhh, that's better!"

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