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Therapeutic potential of cannabinoids in trigeminal neuralgia
by Liang YC, Huang CC, Hsu KS.


Trigeminal neuralgia is a disorder of paroxysmal and severely disabling facial pain and continues to be a real therapeutic challenge to the clinicians. While the exact cause and pathology of this disorder is uncertain, it is thought that trigeminal neuralgia caused by irritation of the trigeminal nerve. This irritation results from damage due to the change in the blood vessels, the presence of a tumor or other lesions that cause the compression of the trigeminal root. The pain of trigeminal neuralgia is characterized by unilateral pain attacks that start abruptly and last for varying periods of time from minutes to hours. The quality of pain is usually sharp, stabbing, lancinating, and burning. The attacks are initiated by mild stimuli such as light touch of the skin, eating, chewing, washing the face, brushing the teeth, and exposure to wind. Although antiepileptic drug therapy may be beneficial in the treatment of trigeminal neuralgia, up to one-half of the patients become refractory or intolerant to these medications. At present there are few other effective drugs. In cases of lacking effect after pharmacotherapy, surgical options may be considered. Currently there is growing amount of evidence to suggest that the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis and individual cannabinoids may be effective in alleviating neuropathic pain and hyperalgesia. Evidence suggests that cannabinoids may prove useful in pain modulation by inhibiting neuronal transmission in pain pathways. Considering the pronounced antinociceptive effects produced by cannabinoids, they may be a promising therapeutic approach for the clinical management of trigeminal neuralgia.

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