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Tic Douloureux


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Tic douloureux dates back to the 1700s when it was defined as an intense paroxysmal neuralgia involving one or more branches of the trigeminal nerve.  Today is it more commonly called Trigeminal Neuralgia (TN).

It earns this "tic" label because the sporadic pain that is generated from a hyperactive trigeminal nerve is so intense that a person often jerks in response to an attack.


Nicholas André invented the term tic douloureux in 1756.  The first full description of TN was given by John Fothergill in 1773. Fothergill described "a painful affection of the face" to the Medical Society in London.


    "There is as exquisite an anguish suffered as from any distemper to which the body is subject, if we may judge by the expressions of it..."

William Heberden (1710-1801), in his Commentaries on the History and Cure of Diseases. London, 1802.


Tic douloureux is also known as prospagalia and trifacial neuralgia (pertaining to the three branches of the trigeminal nerve).

Tic douloureux is listed as a "rare disease" by the Office of Rare Diseases (ORD) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This means that Tic douloureux, or a subtype of Tic douloureux, affects less than 200,000 people in the US population.

Tic douloureux, or TN, is a neuropathic disorder of the trigeminal nerve, the fifth cranial nerve, that is characterized by attacks of intense, stabbing pain affecting the mouth, cheek, nose, and/or other areas on one side of the face.

It is estimated that 1 in 15,000 people suffer from trigeminal neuralgia, although those numbers may be significantly higher due to frequent misdiagnosis.  1 in 5,000 are thought to suffer from some type of facial pain.

TN usually develops after the age of 50, although there have been cases with patients being as young as three years of age.

The exact cause is not fully understood.