Although trigeminal neuralgia can affect every age group, we do know that the younger you are, the less at risk you are. Most of the people afflicted with this condition are over the age of 50. We also know that there's a difference between male and female risk, with women having twice the risk of getting this condition than men. Again, the reasons for this are not entirely known. We have some clues. We think that with the aging process, the insulation may wear down and that's what causes trigeminal neuralgia to be more common as we get older. Nevertheless, it's a rare disorder across all age groups, but the bottom line is: it's more common the older you get and much more common in women than men.
Once the symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia are suspected, usually the most important test to get is a brain MRI scan. The reason for that is that we want to be looking and seeing if there's an actual mass that's pushing on the trigeminal nerve. That's uncommon. Most of the time we're getting the MRI scan to sort of say, "look, you don't have a brain tumor as the underlying cause of this." Sometimes the brain MRI scan will show a blood vessel that's pushing up against the nerve, which is what we think in most people may be the irritative cause on the nerve producing the symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia.
Trigeminal neuralgia type 1 is a treatable disorder and in some cases a curable disorder. The cure usually involves some sort of intervention like surgery or radiation. The treatment is usually medication-related. The biggest hurdle in all of this is getting the diagnosis because so many patients don't get diagnosed until many, many years into the condition. Once the diagnosis is made, we have an excellent set of options for treatment and some options for cure.
There's no specific screening process for Trigeminal Neuralgia type 1. It's really a clinical diagnosis, so if somebody presents to their doctor or dentist or orthodontist with these jolts of pain on one half of their face, then they should be referred to either a neurologist or neurosurgeon who's comfortable and confident treating this disorder.
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