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Glossopharyngeal neuralgia (GPN, or vagoglossopharyngeal neuralgia) is characterized by brief but intense pain on one side of the face in the region of the posterior tongue, tonsillar fossa, pharynx, beneath the jaw or in the ear.     Glossopharyngeal neuralgia (GPN) is also called vagoglossopharyngeal neuralgia. It is characterized by brief but intense pain on one side of the throat, which may radiate within the mouth or into the ear. Attacks are described as sharp, stabbing or burning in quality. They may occur spontaneously or be provoked by talking, chewing, swallowing, coughing and yawning. Some sufferers also describe other sensations in the throat such as clicking, scratching or a foreign body sensation. In rare cases the pain may become associated with fainting (or syncope).

     This disorder is similar to trigeminal neuralgia, but involves the glossopharyngeal and vagus cranial nerves (also called the IXth and Xth nerves). Like trigeminal neuralgia, GPN initially includes periods of remission that over time decrease in duration, while the severity and frequency of painful attacks increases with time. A diagnosis of GPN is also established on the basis of a clinical history and normal neurologic, dental and MRI findings. Unlike TN, carbamazepine and other medications are generally less effective in controlling pain and are not typically used as a diagnostic test. Applying anesthetic solution to the affected area of the mouth or throat which may temporarily alleviate the pain, and has been proposed as a diagnostic test for GPN.

     Three forms of GPN can be distinguished: Typical GPN, Atypical GPN and Secondary GPN. Typical GPN is usually caused by vascular compression of the IXth and Xth cranial nerve rootlets entering the lateral medulla. Atypical GPN involves a prominent associated aching or burning pain in the involved side of the face. Secondary GPN is caused by a tumor injuring the glossopharyngeal nerve in the neck or base of the skull (see Cranial Based Tumors). GPN is rarely associated with multiple-sclerosis.

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Prepared by A. M. Kaufmann & M. Patel
© 2001 Centre for Cranial Nerve Disorders, Winnipeg, University of Manitoba, Health Sciences Centre. The information provided on this web-site is intended for educational purposes only, and should not be used to diagnose or treat a disease or disorder. This information is not intended to substitute, supplement, or in any way qualify the services or advice provided by a qualified health care professional. Please consult with a certified health care professional before pursuing any form of medical action. Duplication in any part or form of this document is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved. For further information please read our disclaimer. Inquiries can be directed to the Information Provider of this web-site.