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High Blood Pressure and Trigeminal Neuralgia: What You Should Know

Posted Apr 07 2013 12:00am

treatment for trigeminal neuralgia gammaknife
Today is World Health Day! This day, sponsored by the World Health Organization, has  a new theme each year which addresses a public health issue. This year it’s all about raising awareness about the causes, treatment and management of disease implications of high blood pressure.

When most people think about high blood pressure they immediately think of heart disease. While this is an accurate correlation, it is important to remember high blood pressure causes damage to many organs and tissues of the body besides the heart. For example high blood pressure can also cause dementia, stroke, TIA’s (also known as mini strokes), kidney failure, and one lesser known condition called trigeminal neuralgia.

What is trigeminal neuralgia?
People with trigeminal neuralgia experience sudden, short attacks of pain to their face. Normally the pain just affects one side. This pain is caused by the trigeminal nerve, a nerve that carries sensation from the face to the brain.

What are the symptoms?
Pain is the main symptom. The pain has been reported as stabbing or sometimes, similar to an electric shock. It is usually centered on the jaw and cheek area. It can last seconds to minutes, depending on the severity of each person’s condition. Triggers include talking, eating, drinking, cleaning teeth, brushing hair, shaving and even facing the wind.
treatment trigeminal neuraliga radiosurgery

There are a number of different treatments available. They include taking medication, avoiding triggers if possible, radiosurgery (such as gamma knife ), microvascular decompression and nerve blocking.

The cause?
The exact cause of trigeminal neuralgia is not known. A common belief is that it’s caused by blood vessels pressing on the trigeminal nerve. This pressure on the trigeminal nerve can also be caused by tumor growth.

There are certain risk factors (characteristics, conditions or behaviors that increase the possibility of disease) that predispose a person to trigeminal neuralgia. The first two, age and sex (trigeminal neuralgia is more common in women), are non-modifiable or unchangeable. The third risk factor, is our foe, high blood pressure.

The good news? This risk factor is modifiable.

You can get your blood pressure under control by modifying certain behaviors in your lifestyle. Unsure how? Let a nurse give you some tips, which are approved by the American Heart Association.

Tip #1: Eat a healthy diet
Eating a healthy diet helps keep your blood pressure in check! What exactly does eating a healthy diet entail? It should be high in fresh fruit and veg, whole grains, beans, lean meat and fish. The oily fish are the best, as they are high in omega three, a fatty acid that your body loves!

Now comes the trickier part: a healthy diet should be low in saturated fats and salt. 97% of Americans eat too much salt. The extra salt in our diets does not just come out of the salt shaker at dinnertime. Traditional snack foods, convenience foods and heavily processed foods are all extremely high in salt. Look for the hidden salt in your diet and see where you can cut back.

Tip #2: Get regular physical exercise
Regular physical exercise can also help to lower those blood pressure readings. Just 30 minutes a day. Spread your routine out during the week by doing a mix of cardio, stretching and muscle building exercises. Have problems keeping an exercise routine? I wrote some tips on how to keep an exercise routine here .

Tip #3: Weight management
Keeping your weight in check, also keeps your blood pressure in check. Managing your weight effectively is simple: eat healthy/move often. See tips # 1 & 2!

Tip #4: Cut out the cigarettes
It has been proven that cigarettes cause a surge in blood pressure directly after smoking. Whether you go cold turkey, or get some patches and gum, make sure you take care of this health damaging habit, once and for all!

Tip #5 : Decrease your alcohol intake
Drinking excess alcohol is known to increase blood pressure. Cut out the binging and excess intake. Can you still enjoy a glass of wine with dinner? Yes, but not the bottle: you see the idea? Moderation is the key. If you think you may have trouble giving up drinking alone, contact a health professional. They can direct you to one of the many support groups out there, or treat any alcohol withdrawal symptoms you may be experiencing.

To learn more about high blood pressure and health, visit the American Heart Association website.

My lesson for World Health Day?
High blood pressure can damage so many different parts of your body, trigeminal neuralgia is just one example. Getting your blood pressure under control is YOUR responsibility so start today, not tomorrow. Your body will thank you!
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