What is Atypical Facial Pain?
Atypical Facial Pain (ATFP) is a syndrome encompassing a wide group of facial pain problems. ATFP can have many different causes but the symptoms are all similar. Facial pain, often described as burning, superficial, or deep aching, stabbing or cramping, occurs on one side of the face, often in the region of the trigeminal nerve and can extend into the upper neck or back of the scalp. Although rarely as severe as trigeminal neuralgia, facial pain is continuous for ATFP patients, with few, if any periods of remission. Recent studies propose that ATFP is an early form of trigeminal neuralgia. Indeed, some patients have components of both ATFP and TN symptoms.
What are some possible causes of ATFP?
ATFP has many possible causes. In some cases, infections of the sinuses or teeth appear to be involved. Some studies postulate a low-grade infectious and inflammatory process occurring over a long period can result in nerve damage and be the triggering factor for ATFP pain. Some believe that vascular compression of the trigeminal nerve in the same area may to lead to trigeminal neuralgia as a cause of ATFP. Dental or some sort of physical trauma is also linked to ATFP.
What are some of the symptoms of ATFP?
Facial pain, often described as burning, aching or cramping, pinching, pulling, that occurs on one side of the face, often in the region of the trigeminal nerve and can extend into the upper neck or back of the scalp. Although rarely as severe as trigeminal neuralgia, facial pain is continuous for ATFP patients, with few, if any periods of remission.
How is ATFP diagnosed?
Diagnosing atypical facial pain is not an easy task. It's not unusual for ATFP patients to have undergone numerous dental procedures, seen multiple doctors and undergone many medical tests before being successfully diagnosed and treated. A diagnosis of ATFP is usually a process of elimination. When a patient complains of constant facial pain restricted to one side of the face, the physician must first rule out any other conditions. Tests may include MRI and/or CT scan with particular attention to the skull base and a thorough neurological examination.