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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Glossopharyngeal neuralgia

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Your Question

Can I pass this on to my daughter? Is it a hereditary condition? And where can I get more information about this condition?

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What is glossopharyngeal neuralgia?

Glossopharyngeal neuralgia is a condition characterized by repeated episodes of severe pain in the tongue, throat, ear, and tonsils (areas connected to the ninth cranial nerve, or glossopharyngeal nerve). It typically occurs in individuals over age 40. Episodes of pain may last from a few seconds to a few minutes, and usually occur on one side. The pain may be triggered by swallowing, speaking, laughing, chewing or coughing. The condition is thought to be due to irritation of the nerve, although the source of irritation is unclear. The goal of treatment is to control pain, but over-the-counter pain medications are not very effective; the most effective drugs are anti-seizure medications. Some antidepressants help certain people. Surgery to cut or take pressure off of the glossopharyngeal nerve may be needed in severe cases.[1]
Last updated: 1/28/2013

What are the signs and symptoms of glossopharyngeal neuralgia?

Glossopharyngeal neuralgia is characterized by repeated episodes of severe pain in areas connected to the ninth cranial nerve (glossopharyngeal nerve): the back of the nose and throat; back of the tongue; ear; tonsil area; and voice box. These episodes, or "attacks," may last for a few seconds or a few minutes. They may be triggered by actions such as coughing or sneezing, swallowing, talking, laughing,or chewing.[1][2] Pain usually begins at the back of the tongue or throat, and it sometimes spreads to the ear or the back of the jaw. In rare cases the heartbeat may be affected, which can cause fainting.[2]
Last updated: 1/28/2013

What causes glossopharyngeal neuralgia?

Glossopharyngeal neuralgia is believed to be caused by irritation of the glossopharyngeal nerve. In many cases, the source of the irritation is not found.[1] Possible causes that have been proposed include various things pressing on the glossopharyngeal nerve such as an abnormally positioned artery, growths at the base of the skull, or tumors or infections of the throat and mouth.[1][2] Rarely, the condition may be attributable to a tumor in the brain or neck, an abscess, an aneurysm in an artery in the neck, or multiple sclerosis.[2]
Last updated: 1/28/2013

Is glossopharyngeal neuralgia inherited?

To our knowlege, there is no evidence that glossopharyngeal neuralgia is an inherited condition.
Last updated: 1/28/2013

How might glossopharyngeal neuralgia be treated?

The main goal of treatment for glossopharyngeal neuralgia is to control pain. Over-the-counter pain medications are generally not very effective in affected individuals. However, anti-seizure medications such as carbamazepine, gabapentin, pregabalin, and phenytoin have reportedly been effective. Some antidepressants may help some individuals.[1] The application of local anesthetics to the affected region may also be beneficial.[3] In severe cases, affected individuals may need surgery to cut or take pressure off of the glossopharyngeal nerve; these surgeries are generally considered effective. If an underlying cause for the condition is identified, treatment is generally aimed at the underlying problem.[1]
Last updated: 1/28/2013