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Causes of Trigeminal Neuralgia

Causes of Trigeminal Neuralgia

Causes of Trigeminal Neuralgia: The Underlying Patho Physiology

Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) is a chronic pain condition affecting the trigeminal nerve, which carries sensation from the face to the brain. This condition is characterized by sudden, severe facial pain that can be debilitating. Understanding the Causes of Trigeminal Neuralgia is crucial for developing effective treatments and improving patient outcomes.

Vascular Compression and Trigeminal Neuralgia

Large surgical series from various centres have confirmed that microvascular decompression (MVD) of the trigeminal nerve root is the most effective and durable treatment for trigeminal neuralgia. Empirical evidence strongly indicates that vascular compression of the trigeminal nerve root is associated with TN in about 95% of patients. However, the exact mechanisms by which vascular compression leads to trigeminal neuralgia remain speculative.

Theories and Hypotheses

Several hypotheses have been proposed to explain the pathophysiology of trigeminal neuralgia. One popular hypothesis is the combination of central demyelination of the nerve root entry zone and reinforcing electrical excitability, known as the "ignition hypothesis." Recent studies suggest that this demyelination impairs the nociceptive system, which is responsible for processing pain signals. Patients with more background pain often exhibit a loss of central inhibition of the nociceptive system. Even after successful surgery, some form of abnormality of somatosensory function typically remains.

Genetic and Biological Factors

Predisposing biological factors, including genetic components, are likely important in the development of trigeminal neuralgia. Although rare, familial clusters of TN cases do exist, suggesting a genetic predisposition.

Trigeminal Neuralgia and Multiple Sclerosis

A small subset of trigeminal neuralgia cases is associated with multiple sclerosis (MS) plaques or lacunar infarctions within the brain stem trigeminal system or cerebellopontine mass lesions. Demyelinating MS plaques have been reported to involve brain stem trigeminal nuclei. In a study of consecutive patients with multiple sclerosis, MRI showed that the only lesion localization common to all patients was the intrapontine course of fibers in the fascicular trigeminal nerve root. This finding supports the role of demyelination at the central nerve root in trigeminal neuralgia.


While the exact pathophysiology of trigeminal neuralgia remains speculative, strong evidence points to vascular compression and central demyelination as significant factors. Continued research into the genetic and biological underpinnings of this condition and its association with multiple sclerosis is essential for developing better diagnostic and treatment strategies. At Samobathi Pain Clinic, we are committed to staying at the forefront of this research to provide our patients with the most effective and up-to-date treatments.

If you or a loved one is experiencing the debilitating pain of trigeminal neuralgia, please contact Samobathi Pain Clinic to explore your treatment options. Our expert team is here to help you find relief and improve your quality of life.


  • Large surgical series from various centres.

  • Microvascular decompression studies.

  • Evidence of vascular compression association.

  • Central demyelination and "ignition hypothesis."

  • Recent studies on nociceptive system impairment.

  • Genetic predisposition and familial clusters.

  • Multiple sclerosis and demyelination studies.


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