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Facial Pain Can Be Severe, But Uncommon

Posted: January 19, 2010

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The two least common facial pain types were glossopharyngeal neuralgia—diagnosed in two people—and paroxysmal hemicrania, which was diagnosed in one person. The former affects the glossopharyngeal nerve deep in the neck and causes severe, stabbing pain in the throat, tongue and middle ear.

Paroxysmal hemicrania is a form of headache that causes multiple attacks of pain per day, usually on one side of the face and sometimes accompanied by red, teary eyes or a swollen or drooping eyelid on the affected side of the head.

"Although the symptoms of some of these forms (of facial pain) can be severe, they are, luckily enough, rare," lead researcher Dr. Joseph S.H.A. Koopman, of Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, told Reuters Health in an email.

Diagnosing the different forms of facial pain can be difficult. By putting figures on the rates of these disorders, the current findings may be helpful to doctors when they are trying to narrow down the possible diagnoses for a patient's symptoms, according to Koopman.

The incidence of a disease, he said, determines the "a priori chance," or likelihood, that it accounts for a person's symptoms.