Pain of unknown cause in the area covered by a peripheral sensory nerve. In trigeminal neuralgia (tic douloureux), brief attacks of severe shooting pain along a branch of the trigeminal nerve (in front of the ear) usually begin after middle age, more often in women. Initially weeks or months apart, they become more frequent and easily triggered by touching the affected area, talking, eating, or cold. Analgesics help, but permanent cure requires surgery. Glossopharyngeal neuralgia causes recurring severe pain, most often in men over 40. Excruciating pains begin in the throat and radiate to the ears or down the neck, with or without a trigger (e.g., sneezing, yawning, chewing). Usually separated by long intervals, attacks subside before analgesics take effect. Surgery may help in extreme cases. See also neuritis.
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