What are the Causes of Glossopharyngeal Neuralgia

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Jan 18, 2013
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Quick Bites

  • Glossopharyngeal neuralgia is caused by irritation of the ninth cranial nerve.
  • Mostly, the source of irritation is never found.
  • Symptoms usually begin in people over age 40.
  • It can be cured through a variety of treatment options.

Repeated episodes of stabbing pain in the tongue, throat, ear, and tonsils are known as Glossopharyngeal neuralgia. This syndrome usually develops in people over 40 years of age and the pain can last anywhere between a few seconds to minutes.

The pain attacks are mostly spontaneous but can be triggered by chewing, speaking, coughing, swallowing, or laughing.  The pain attacks may occur throughout the day or once in a couple of weeks. They can be too frequent and severe to disturb one’s sleep.

Causes of Glossopharyngeal Neuralgia

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.

Causes of Glossopharyngeal Neuralgia

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
  • Tumours or infections of the throat and mouth pressing on the glossopharyngeal nerve


As compared to other facial pain syndromes, glossopharyngeal nerve syndrome is rare and occurs in women more than men.

The syndrome can be cured through a variety of treatment options which include medication, surgery, needle procedures and radiation. The first option of treatment once the syndrome is diagnosed is medication. If the pain doesn’t cease with medicines, or the side-effects are intolerable, one might want to consult a neurosurgeon to discuss other procedures.

Image Courtesy: Getty

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