Trigeminal neuralgia (tic douloureux) generally strikes people over age 50. The head pain is unilateral, very intense, and recurrent, affecting the facial region. It is a sharp, burning type of pain, often set off by touch, chewing, laughing, talking, or even a cold breeze.
The pain is intermittent, with jabs lasting for approximately 30 seconds, followed by a few pain-free moments, and then another group of painful jabs, which may reoccur for a few hours at a time. The attacks can go on for weeks or months. Anticonvulsant medications may reduce the sensitivity in the facial region, thus preventing the attacks of pain. They may take effect anywhere from a few hours to a day after initiating treatment, and therapy should continue for weeks or months.
If medication is not effective, surgery may be indicated. Attacks may at times spontaneously subside.