Glossopharyngeal neuralgia is characterized by a sharp, jabbing pain deep in the throat, or in the tongue, ear, and tonsils, lasting a few seconds to a few minutes.
Glossopharyngeal neuralgia is generally caused by a small blood vessel that presses on the nerves as they exit the brainstem. This condition is caused by irritation of the ninth cranial nerve by a blood vessel, and is most commonly seen in people over age 40.
Before recommending surgery, doctors will typically prescribe medicine to treat glossopharyngeal neuralgia.
If you do require surgery, UPMC's neurosurgeons may perform microvascular decompression.
Your physician will perform a physical exam and will ask about your symptoms.
Symptoms of glossopharyngeal neuralgia may include severe pain in areas connected to the ninth cranial nerve, which are:
The pain can be triggered by:
Complications may include:
Doctors usually obtain an MRI scan for people with these symptoms to rule out tumors or other lesions.
Medications can provide relief to patients with glossopharyngeal neuralgia, but many people require increasing doses, which can lead to difficult side effects. When this happens, one treatment option at UPMC is microvascular decompression.
Microvascular decompression is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that relieves abnormal compression of a cranial nerve. The surgery consists of a linear incision behind the ear followed by a craniectomy (bony opening) the size of a silver dollar.
Under the view of a microscope or endoscope, the doctors detect the area where the blood vessel is affecting the nerve and then separate them, leaving a Teflon "pillow" in between.
Microvascular decompression is considered the most effective glossopharyngeal neuralgia treatment. Despite the rarity of glossopharyngeal neuralgia, UPMC specialists have operated on more than 200 people, with more than 80 percent reporting immediate and satisfactory results.
How can we help you?
Schedule anappointment »
Ask a question »
Request our expertopinion »
1-877-986-9862(within the U.S.)
Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
| Supplemental content provided by Healthwise, Incorporated. To learn more, visit www.healthwise.org
For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.
UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.
Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.
Pittsburgh, PA, USA | UPMC.com