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Therapeutic Potential of Cannabinoids in Trigeminal Neuralgia

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Trigeminal neuralgia is a disorder of paroxysmal and severely disabling facial pain and continues to be a real therapeutic challenge to the clinicians. While the exact cause and pathology of this disorder is uncertain, it is thought that trigeminal neuralgia caused by irritation of the trigeminal nerve. This irritation results from damage due to the change in the blood vessels, the presence of a tumor or other lesions that cause the compression of the trigeminal root. The pain of trigeminal neuralgia is characterized by unilateral pain attacks that start abruptly and last for varying periods of time from minutes to hours. The quality of pain is usually sharp, stabbing, lancinating, and burning. The attacks are initiated by mild stimuli such as light touch of the skin, eating, chewing, washing the face, brushing the teeth, and exposure to wind. Although antiepileptic drug therapy may be beneficial in the treatment of trigeminal neuralgia, up to one-half of the patients become refractory or intolerant to these medications. At present there are few other effective drugs. In cases of lacking effect after pharmacotherapy, surgical options may be considered. Currently there is growing amount of evidence to suggest that the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis and individual cannabinoids may be effective in alleviating neuropathic pain and hyperalgesia. Evidence suggests that cannabinoids may prove useful in pain modulation by inhibiting neuronal transmission in pain pathways. Considering the pronounced antinociceptive effects produced by cannabinoids, they may be a promising therapeutic approach for the clinical management of trigeminal neuralgia.
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Keywords: anticonvulsant; cannabinoid; trigeminal neuralgia

Document Type: Review Article

Affiliations: Department of Pharmacology, College of Medicine, National Cheng Kung University, No. 1, University Rd., Tainan City 701, Taiwan.

Publication date: December 1, 2004

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  • CNS & Neurological Disorders - Drug Targets aims to cover all the latest and outstanding developments on the medicinal chemistry, pharmacology, molecular biology, genomics and biochemistry of contemporary molecular targets involved in neurological and central nervous system (CNS) disorders e.g. disease specific proteins, receptors, enzymes, genes. Each issue of the journal will contain a series of timely in-depth reviews written by leaders in the field covering a range of current topics on drug targets involved in neurological and CNS disorders. As the discovery, identification, characterization and validation of novel human drug targets for neurological and CNS drug discovery continues to grow; this journal will be essential reading for all pharmaceutical scientists involved in drug discovery and development.
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