Numbness matters: A clinical review of trigeminal neuropathy

Jonathan H. Smith, F. Michael Cutrer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Aim: Trigeminal neuropathies are a group of clinical disorders that involve injury to primary first-order neurons within the trigeminal nerve. We review the spectrum of etiologies underlying both painful and non-painful trigeminal neuropathies, with attention to particularly dangerous processes that may elude the clinician in the absence of a meticulous evaluation. Complications and management issues specific to patients with trigeminal neuropathy are discussed. Methods: Retrospective literature review. Results: Facial or intraoral numbness, the hallmark of trigeminal neuropathy, may represent the earliest symptomology of malignancy or autoimmune connective tissue disease as sensory neurons are destroyed. Such numbness, especially if progressive, necessitates periodic evaluation and vigilance even years after presentation if no diagnosis can be made. Conclusions: In the routine evaluation of patients with facial pain, the clinician will inevitably be confronted with secondary pathology of the trigeminal nerves and nuclei. The appearance of numbness, even when pain continues to be the most pressing complaint, necessitates clinical assessment of the integrity of all aspects of the trigeminal pathways, which may also include neurophysiologic, radiographic, and laboratory evaluation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1131-1144
Number of pages14
Issue number10
StatePublished - Jul 2011


  • Trigeminal neuropathy
  • secondary headache disorder
  • trigeminal nerve disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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