Main AHCA Website

AHCA’s main website for information on Medicaid, Health Quality Assurance and the Florida Center for Health Information and Transparency.

Go >

Florida Health Information Network

This website provides information and resources relating to AHCA’s initiatives for Health Information Technology and Health Information Exchange.

Go >

Provides health education and information to compare and locate health care providers in Florida to make well-informed health care decisions.

Go >
AHCA Network of Websites

Health Education

Health Encyclopedia

Search the Health Encyclopedia

Glossopharyngeal neuralgia


Glossopharyngeal neuralgia is a condition in which there are repeated episodes of severe pain in the tongue, throat, ear, and tonsils, which can last from a few seconds to a few minutes.

Alternative Names

Cranial mononeuropathy IX; Weisenberg syndrome


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.

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


Symptoms include severe pain in areas connected to the ninth cranial nerve:

  • Back of the nose and throat (nasopharynx)
  • Back of the tongue
  • Ear
  • Throat
  • Tonsil area
  • Voice box (larynx)

The pain occurs in episodes and may be severe. It is usually on one side, and feels jabbing. The episodes can occur many times each day, and awaken the person from sleep.

It can sometimes be triggered by:

  • Chewing
  • Coughing
  • Laughing
  • Speaking
  • Swallowing

Exams and Tests

Tests will be done to identify problems, such as tumors, at the base of the skull. Tests may include:

Sometimes the MRI may show swelling (inflammation) of the glossopharyngeal nerve.

To find out whether a blood vessel is pressing on the nerve, pictures of the brain arteries may be taken using:


The goal of treatment is to control pain. Over-the-counter painkillers such as aspirin and acetaminophen (Tylenol) are not very effective for relieving glossopharyngeal neuralgia.

The most effective drugs are antiseizure medications. Antidepressants may help certain people.

In severe cases, when pain is difficult to treat, surgery to take pressure off the glossopharyngeal nerve may be needed. This is called microvascular decompression. Or, the nerve can be cut (rhizotomy). Both surgeries are generally considered effective. If a cause of the neuralgia is found, treatment should control the underlying problem.

Outlook (Prognosis)

How well you do depends on the cause of the problem and the effectiveness of the first treatment. Surgery is considered effective for people who do not benefit from medications.

Possible Complications

Slow pulse and fainting may occur when pain is severe.

Medications used to treat this condition can have side effects.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of glossopharyngeal neuralgia. See a pain specialist if the pain is severe to be sure that you are aware of all your options for controlling pain.


Reddy GD, Viswanathan A. Trigeminal and glossopharyngeal neuralgia. Neurol Clin. 2014;32:539-52. PMID: 24703544

Rucker JC. Cranial neuropathies. In: Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, eds. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 70.

Review Date:5/28/2014
Reviewed By:Joseph V. Campellone, MD, Division of Neurology, Cooper University Hospital, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997-A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

The Agency for Health Care Administration (Agency) and this website do not claim the information on, or referred to by, this site is error free. This site may include links to websites of other government agencies or private groups. Our Agency and this website do not control such sites and are not responsible for their content. Reference to or links to any other group, product, service, or information does not mean our Agency or this website approves of that group, product, service, or information.

Additionally, while health information provided through this website may be a valuable resource for the public, it is not designed to offer medical advice. Talk with your doctor about medical care questions you may have.

Outcome Data

No data available for this condition/procedure.

Health Encyclopedia

More Features

We Appreciate Your Feedback
1. Did you find this information useful?

2. Would you recommend this website to family and friends?