'Suicide disease' man is pain-free after 20 years of suffering

Dr Peter Codd (left) and Dr Thomas Haag Dr Peter Codd (left) was helped by pain consultant Dr Thomas Haag

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A man who suffered from 20 years of excruciating agony caused by one of the most painful conditions known to mankind has had his life transformed.

Dr Peter Codd, 66, from Mold in Flintshire, is now pain-free after treatment to stop the rare disorder, often referred to as suicide disease.

Attacks - caused by a nerve being strangled by a blood vessel in his face - felt like electric shocks or burning.

Anaesthetic used on the nerve ending has finally helped rid him of the pain.

Dr Codd, who used to be a lecturer at Bangor University, endured two decades of chronic facial pain caused by trigeminal caused neuralgia (TN).

What is trigeminal caused neuralgia (TN)?

  • TN is an excruciatingly painful and debilitating condition, known as "the suicide disease".
  • It is regarded as the most painful condition that is known in the medical world.
  • It is a disorder of the trigeminal nerve in the face which results in its overreaction to everyday stimuli, such as talking, eating and light touch.
  • TN triggers a violent, electric shock-like pain which can last for a few seconds to a few minutes and repeat in episodes lasting weeks and months.
  • The pain can also be described as stabbing, shooting, burning, excruciating, and unlike any other pain previously experienced.
  • Normal painkillers, even morphine, have no effect and initial treatment with anti-convulsant drugs can have very unpleasant side-effects.
  • When these medications cease to be effective, or the side-effects become intolerable, various types of surgical procedures are carried out but to date there is no known cure.
  • Research suggests it affects about 63,000 people in the UK.

The shooting pain often left him unable to eat, drink, talk or swallow for several hours at a time.

"The pain comes from the trigeminal nerve that runs down the side of your face," said Dr Codd, who gained a PhD in biochemistry before teaching at a high school on Merseyside.

"In my case it was the left side that was affected. The nerve allows you to feel sensations in your face such as heat, touch and so forth.

"In my case the trigeminal nerve that runs down the left side of my face was being strangled, if you like, by a blood vessel. This caused the nerve to become highly sensitive."

He added: "Any attack meant I couldn't speak, eat or drink for up to two hours at a time. And as I couldn't swallow I'd dribble from the corner of my mouth which was horrible.

"Something as simple as a slight draft from an open door could be enough of a trigger an attack. It's hard to describe the level and intensity of the pain."

The Trigeminal Neuralgia Association UK says the condition is regarded as the most painful condition that is known in the medical world. and is often known as "the suicide disease".

Dr Codd was resigned to a life dealing with the crippling condition until he went for an outpatient appointment with Dr Thomas Haag, a consultant in pain medicine and anaesthesia in Wrexham.

The consultant told him he could diagnose what was wrong and could perform a procedure there and then to stop the pain.

'Re-set nerves'

Dr Codd said Dr Haag put "very large cotton buds, along with anaesthetic" up his nose and treated the nerves in his face.

"In lay-man's terms, he re-set, or re-booted if you like, the nerve ganglion at the point where several nerves meet, almost like a electricity wiring junction box, so it sent out the right messages at the right time," said Dr Codd.

"It was incredible as the pain instantly disappeared."

The first procedure 18 months ago at the Spire Yale Hospital in Wrexham was repeated again this year, allowing Dr Codd to lead a pain-free life.

He may need more treatment in the future - but said it was a small price to pay.

Dr Haag said less than 20% of people with chronic pain are referred to specialist pain consultants.

"Often that is far too late and on average comes after 12 years of chronic suffering," he said.

He added that Dr Codd had responded well to his treatment "allowing him to enjoy a level of quality of life he has not experienced for more than 20 years".

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