Glossopharyngeal neuralgia

HCA UK neurosurgeons can relieve intense pain from glossopharyngeal neuralgia using advanced surgical techniques

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Glossopharyngeal neuralgia is where the ninth cranial nerve (the glossopharyngeal nerve) becomes irritated. The nerve enters the brainstem and gives feeling to the back of the throat, tongue and ear. Irritation causes intense attacks of extreme pain in these areas. The condition is thought to be caused by a blood vessel pulsating against the nerve.

Need to know

Symptoms of glossopharyngeal neuralgia are often triggered by swallowing, coughing or laughing. They include:

  • an electric shock or burning sensation
  • pain on one side of the throat, lasting days or weeks
  • a sense that a sharp object is stuck in the throat
Your consultant neurosurgeon will discuss your symptoms with you and help to make a diagnosis.

The symptoms of glosspharyngeal neuralgia are characteristic and are sufficient to make the diagnosis without the need for many tests, although an MRI scan will be requested to check for compression — either by a nerve or tumour.
The intense pain caused by glossopharyngeal neuralgia can be managed through medication.

If this fails, microvascular decompression surgery is an option. Here, Teflon wool is placed between the blood vessel and the nerve, so that the nerve is no longer compressed. The nerve is accessed behind the ear in a procedure called a craniectomy.

You will usually be discharged from hospital after two to three days.

Our Glossopharyngeal neuralgia locations

SPECIALIST UNIT  London Neurosurgery Partnership

SPECIALIST UNIT London Neurosurgery Partnership

78 Harley Street W1G 7HJ London
The Harley Street Clinic

The Harley Street Clinic

35 Weymouth Street W1G 8BJ London
The Portland Hospital

The Portland Hospital

205-209 Great Portland Street W1W 5AH London
The Lister Hospital

The Lister Hospital

Chelsea Bridge Road, SW1W 8RH London
The Shard Outpatients

The Shard Outpatients

The Shard, 32 St Thomas Street SE1 9BS London
London Bridge Hospital

London Bridge Hospital

27 Tooley Street SE1 2PR London

Patient stories

This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.