Glossopharyngeal neuralgia

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


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 icon plus

    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
  • Diagnosis icon plus

    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.
  • Potential treatment options icon plus

    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.

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