Trigeminal Neuralgia (TN) is a disorder of the fifth cranial nerve, called the trigeminal nerve. This nerve arises in the brain and supplies feeling and movement in the face. TN produces excruciating, lightning strikes of facial pain, typically near the nose, lips, eyes, or teeth. Triggered by something as simple as brushing one’s teeth or touching a cup to one’s lips, the pain has been referred to as the most acute pain known to humankind.
The origin of TN remains unknown, but it is often attributed to tumors, multiple sclerosis, or abnormal blood vessels that compress the nerve. Initial treatment is through the use of drugs. There is no cure for TN, but should medication prove ineffective or produce undesirable side effects, neurosurgical procedures are available to relieve pressure on the nerve or reduce nerve sensitivity.
The Trigeminal Neuralgia Association (TNA) was founded in 1990 by TN patients and their families. TNA’s founding mission was to improve the quality of life of TN patients through programs that empower patients to become knowledgeable about their condition and treatment options. Aiding patients with issues associated with chronic pain, educating practitioners on matters of diagnosis and treatment and encouraging appropriate medical research are all goals of the TNA.
A fundamental part of this organization is the nationwide TNA Patient Support Network with more than 60 local support groups. Under the guidance of a national support group coordinator, local support groups play an increasingly important role in fulfilling TNA’s mission. Typically, each group is organized and led by a facial pain patient who has volunteered to be a local support group leader. Through their efforts, participants have the opportunity to share experiences, become educated, and support one another, thereby reducing the feelings of isolation and helplessness so common among TN sufferers.
It is these volunteer individuals who are the backbone of humanitarian caring and undying commitment that shares their experiences in an effort to assist others of whom otherwise would suffer in isolation and possibly consider suicide as their only alternative. These individuals are either personally coping with their own painful condition or have successfully overcome the pain with effective treatment, and therefore want to help others by offering hope and advice as they search for a pain-free existence.