Learn About Glossopharyngeal Neuralgia

What is the definition of Glossopharyngeal Neuralgia?

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

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What are the alternative names for Glossopharyngeal Neuralgia?

Cranial mononeuropathy IX; Weisenberg syndrome; GPN

What are the causes of Glossopharyngeal Neuralgia?

Glossopharyngeal neuralgia (GPN) is believed to be caused by irritation of the ninth cranial nerve, called the glossopharyngeal nerve. Symptoms usually begin in people over age 50.

In most cases, the source of irritation is never found. 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
What are the symptoms of Glossopharyngeal Neuralgia?

The pain usually occurs on one side and may be jabbing. In rare cases, both sides are involved. 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. 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
  • Yawning
  • Sneezing
  • Cold beverages
  • Touching (a blunt object to the tonsil of the affected side)
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What are the current treatments for Glossopharyngeal Neuralgia?

The goal of treatment is to control pain. The most effective drugs are antiseizure medicines such as carbamazepine. Antidepressants 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. The nerve can also be cut (rhizotomy). Both surgeries are effective. If a cause of the neuralgia is found, treatment should control the underlying problem.

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What is the outlook (prognosis) for Glossopharyngeal Neuralgia?

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 medicines.

What are the possible complications of Glossopharyngeal Neuralgia?

Complications of GPN may include:

  • Slow pulse and fainting may occur when pain is severe
  • Damage to the carotid artery or internal jugular artery due to injuries, such as a stab wound
  • Difficulty in swallowing food and speaking
  • Side effects of the medicines used
When should I contact a medical professional for Glossopharyngeal Neuralgia?

See your health care provider right away if you have symptoms of GPN.

See a pain specialist if the pain is severe, to be sure that you are aware of all your options for controlling pain.

Glossopharyngeal neuralgia
What are the latest Glossopharyngeal Neuralgia Clinical Trials?
Anti-CGRP Neutralizing Antibody for Modulation of Neurogenic Inflammation in Trigeminal and Glossopharyngeal Pain Associated With Small Fiber Neuropathy/Fibromyalgia
Summary: The investigators will treat patients (targeting enrollment of n=20) who suffer from trigeminal or glossopharyngeal nerve pain in the context of painful small fiber neuropathy. The primary pain-related objective is reduction of pain and reduced use of rescue and other anti-pain medications. Another goal is to monitor and confirm the safety profile established in the migraine population, during pre...
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MRI Observation After Ganglionic Local Opioid Analgesia at the Ganglion Cervicale Superius
Summary: The blockade of the superior cervical ganglion (GCS) of the sympathetic trunk is a very special form of therapy. The transoral blocking technique, also known as GLOA (ganglionic local opioid analgesia), is very suitable for achieving GCS. A total of 5 μg of sufentanil in 2 ml of sodium chlorid are applied.~Since no imaging evidence of the injected substances has been published for a GLOA in a livi...
What are the Latest Advances for Glossopharyngeal Neuralgia?
Imaging of Trigeminal Neuralgia and Other Facial Pain.
Summary: Imaging of Trigeminal Neuralgia and Other Facial Pain.
Microvascular Decompression for Glossopharyngeal Neuralgia in the Semi-Sitting Position: A Report of Two Cases.
Summary: Microvascular Decompression for Glossopharyngeal Neuralgia in the Semi-Sitting Position: A Report of Two Cases.
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Glossopharyngeal Neuralgia/Neuropathy with Hemodynamic Instability and Associated Syncope Treated with Stereotactic Radiosurgery.
Summary: Glossopharyngeal Neuralgia/Neuropathy with Hemodynamic Instability and Associated Syncope Treated with Stereotactic Radiosurgery.
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date: June 23, 2020
Published By: Amit M. Shelat, DO, FACP, FAAN, Attending Neurologist and Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology, Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Ko MW, Prasad S. Headache, facial pain, and disorders of facial sensation. In: Liu GT, Volpe NJ, Galetta SL, eds. Liu, Volpe, and Galetta's Neuro-Ophthalmology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 19.

Miller JP, Burchiel KJ. Microvascular decompression for trigeminal neuralgia. In: Winn HR, ed. Youmans and Winn Neurological Surgery. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 174.

Narouze S, Pope JE. Orofacial pain. In: Benzon HT, Raja SN, Liu SS, Fishman SM, Cohen SP, eds. Essentials of Pain Medicine. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 23.