St. Luke's Hospital
Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
Find a Physician Payment Options Locations & Directions
Follow us on: facebook twitter Mobile Email Page Email Page Print Page Print Page Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size Font Size
America's 50 Best Hospitals
Meet the Doctor
Spirit of Women
Community Health Needs Assessment
Home > Health Information

Multimedia Encyclopedia

    Print-Friendly
    Bookmarks

    Glossopharyngeal neuralgia

    Cranial mononeuropathy IX

    Glossopharyngeal neuralgia is a condition in which there are repeated episodes of severe pain in the tongue, throat, ear, and tonsils, which can last from a few seconds to a few minutes.

    Causes

    Glossopharyngeal neuralgia is believed to be caused by irritation of the ninth cranial nerve, called the glossopharyngeal nerve. Symptoms usually begin in people over age 40.

    In most cases, the source of irritation is never found. Some possible causes for this type of nerve pain (neuralgia) are:

    • Blood vessels pressing on the glossopharyngeal nerve
    • Growths at the base of the skull pressing on the glossopharyngeal nerve
    • Tumors or infections of the throat and mouth pressing on the glossopharyngeal nerve

    Symptoms

    Symptoms include severe pain in areas connected to the ninth cranial nerve:

    • Back of the nose and throat (nasopharynx)
    • Back of the tongue
    • Ear
    • Throat
    • Tonsil area
    • Voice box (larynx)

    The pain occurs in episodes and may be severe. It is usually on one side, and feels jabbing. The episodes can occur many times each day, and awaken the person from sleep.

    It can sometimes be triggered by:

    • Chewing
    • Coughing
    • Laughing
    • Speaking
    • Swallowing

    Exams and Tests

    Tests will be done to identify problems, such as tumors, at the base of the skull. Tests may include:

    • Blood tests (sugar level) to look for the causes of nerve damage
    • CT scan of the head
    • MRI of the head
    • X-rays of the head or neck

    Sometimes the MRI may show swelling (inflammation) of the glossopharyngeal nerve.

    To find out whether a blood vessel is pressing on the nerve, pictures of the brain arteries may be taken using:

    • Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA)
    • CT angiogram
    • X-rays of the arteries with a dye (conventional angiography)

    Treatment

    The goal of treatment is to control pain. Over-the-counter painkillers such as aspirin and acetaminophen (Tylenol) are not very effective for relieving glossopharyngeal neuralgia.

    The most effective drugs are antiseizure medications, such as carbamazepine, gabapentin, pregabalin,and phenytoin. Some antidepressants, such as amitriptyline or nortriptyline, may help certain people.

    In severe cases, when pain is difficult to treat, surgery to take pressure off the glossopharyngeal nerve may be needed. This is called microvascular decompression. Or, the nerve can be cut (rhizotomy). Both surgeries are generally considered effective. If a cause of the neuralgia is found, treatment should control the underlying problem.

    Outlook (Prognosis)

    How well you do depends on the cause of the problem and the effectiveness of the first treatment. Surgery is considered effective for people who do not benefit from medications.

    Possible Complications

    Slow pulse and fainting may occur when pain is severe.

    Medications used to treat this condition can have side effects.

    When to Contact a Medical Professional

    Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of glossopharyngeal neuralgia. See a pain specialist if the pain is severe to be sure that you are aware of all your options for controlling pain.

    References

    Cutrer FM, Moskowitz MA. Headaches and other head pain. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2007:chap 421.

    Ferroli P, Fioravanti A, Schiariti M, Tringali G, Franzini A, Calbucci F, Broggi G. Microvascular decompression for glossopharyngeal neuralgia: a long-term retrospective review of the Milan-Blogna experience in 31 consecutive cases. Acta Neuochir (Wien). 2009;151:1245-1250.

    C. Gaul , P. Hastreiter,A. Duncker, and R. Naraghi. Diagnosis and neurosurgical treatment of glossopharyngeal neuralgia: clinical findings and 3-D visualization of neurovascular compression in 19 consecutive patients. J Headache Pain. 2011; 12:527–534.

    BACK TO TOP

    • Glossopharyngeal neuralg...

      illustration

      • Glossopharyngeal neuralg...

        illustration

      A Closer Look

        Self Care

          Review Date: 5/21/2012

          Reviewed By: Luc Jasmin, MD, PhD, Department of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, and Department of Anatomy at UCSF, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

          The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
          adam.com

          A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Fire Fox and chrome browser.


          Back  |  Top
          About Us
          Contact Us
          History
          Mission
          Locations & Directions
          Quality Reports
          Annual Reports
          Honors & Awards
          Community Health Needs
          Assessment

          Newsroom
          Services
          Brain & Spine
          Cancer
          Heart
          Maternity
          Orthopedics
          Pulmonary
          Sleep Medicine
          Urgent Care
          Women's Services
          All Services
          Patients & Visitors
          Locations & Directions
          Find a Physician
          Tour St. Luke's
          Patient & Visitor Information
          Contact Us
          Payment Options
          Financial Assistance
          Send a Card
          Mammogram Appointments
          Health Tools
          My Personal Health
          mystlukes
          Spirit of Women
          Health Information & Tools
          Clinical Trials
          Health Risk Assessments
          Employer Programs -
          Passport to Wellness

          Classes & Events
          Classes & Events
          Spirit of Women
          Donate & Volunteer
          Giving Opportunities
          Volunteer
          Physicians & Employees
          For Physicians
          Remote Access
          Medical Residency Information
          Pharmacy Residency Information
          Physician CPOE Training
          Careers
          Careers
          St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
          Copyright © St. Luke's Hospital Website Terms and Conditions  |  Privacy Policy  |  Patient Notice of Privacy Policies PDF Sitemap St. Luke's Mobile