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Trigeminal neuralgia (Fothergill’s disease) in the 17th and 18th centuries
  1. J M S Pearce
  1. 304 Beverley Road, Anlaby, Hull HU10 7BG;

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    “There is as exquisite an anguish suffered as from any distemper to which the body is subject, if we may judge by the expressions of it…” W Heberden, 18021

    John Fothergill gave the first full and accurate description of trigeminal neuralgia in 1773, but early descriptions of trigeminal neuralgia (Fothergill’s disease)2 can be inferred from the writings of Galen, Aretaeus of Cappadocia (born circa AD 81), and in the 11th century by Avicenna (“tortura oris”).3

    In the south aisle of Wells cathedral lies the tomb of Bishop Button, who died in 1274. He was canonised. Many pilgrims and toothache sufferers left offerings at the tomb, in commemoration of which the capitals of the pillars bear carvings of people depicted with facial neuralgia. One is famed as the toothache figure. Because of the surprising rarity of dental caries in that time (confirmed when the sarcophagus was opened in 1848), Wilfred Harris pointed out the probable relevance to trigeminal neuralgia.4

    The most convincing early description …

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