Saturday, 23 November 2013

Aluminium: The metal that just keeps on giving



crushed aluminium cansA couple of months from now you could be driving these around on the streets
Two hundred years ago, no-one knew aluminium existed. Today it is everywhere - in cans, window frames, packaging, even car bodies. New uses for it are constantly being discovered - but it's possible that one day we'll be able to stop mining the ore, and rely completely on recycling.
Aluminium has a split personality.
It may look dull, but it is one of the most reactive metals in the periodic table.
"Aluminium fires are quite terrifying," says Andrea Sella, chemistry professor at University College London.
"When you take aluminium and you burn it, you get a very, very intense fire."
From that point of view, it may not be ideal for aircraft construction - but this disadvantage is outweighed by its strength, flexibility and exceptional lightness.

Aluminium - key facts

Aluminium - symbol, atomic number and weight
  • Soft, non-magnetic metal
  • Symbol: Al
  • Atomic number: 13
  • Weight: 26.98
  • 3rd most abundant element in Earth's crust after oxygen and silicon
  • Found mainly as bauxite
  • Yearly primary aluminium production: 53.4m tonnes
  • Increasingly recycled
  • Used in transport, packaging, construction and household goods
The soft, malleable metal's alter ego is aluminium oxide, which forms a skin on the pure metal the moment it is exposed to air (and makes it unlikely that an aircraft will catch fire).
This oxide is so hard that it is used to make sandpaper and other abrasive materials.
Among gemstones, sapphires - crystals formed from the oxide - are second only to diamonds in their hardness.
Indeed, there is a growing industry for manufacturing industrial sapphires the size of a large bucket, suitable for use in bullet-proof glass, aeroplane windows and soon -unscratchable smartphone displays.
Although Aluminium is the third most abundant element in the earth's crust, it was not isolated until 1825, and remained so scarce that it wasvalued more highly than silver for decades.
The reason it remained hidden for so long, unlike gold or silver, is that it is too reactive to be occur in its pure form.
Instead it is found as bauxite, a reddish-brown ore named after the French town Les Baux, where it was first discovered.
Bauxite is found across the globe, and mining it is the easy part. Far trickier is extracting the metal. It was not until 1886 that a Frenchman and an American both cracked it.
Bauxite is processed at the Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee  factory, Kamsar, Guinea Bauxite is mined all over the world, from Australia to Brazil to India to Guinea
You have to melt the bauxite in another mineral called cryolite, and then pass an electric current through it, separating the oxygen atoms from the aluminium. It takes four tonnes of bauxite to produce one tonne of aluminium.

Baked sapphire

Freshly baked industrial sapphire
  • Naturally-occurring sapphires can take 50,000 years to form
  • Now they can be baked in a week, in ovens made of molybdenum and tungsten - which unlike steel do not melt at 2,200C
  • A sapphire hard drive is reported to have been developed that can store information on nuclear waste dumps for up to a million years - enough time for safe radioactive decay
The process is highly energy-intensive and therefore expensive.
But recycling aluminium uses a fraction of the energy.
"Beverage cans get recycled within 60 days, so a can of soda is back on the shelves 60 days later," says Nick Madden, who is responsible for buying raw metal for Novelis, the world's biggest manufacturer of rolled aluminium sheets.
Once you have the metal, you can re-use it again and again, almost indefinitely.
"It is one of the few materials that is genuinely 100% recyclable," Madden says.
In theory, a day may come when we have mined all we need, and we can just keep re-using what we already have.
"If demand stops growing, and scrap comes back from older uses like buildings in the future, then that will start to reduce the required primary consumption," says Madden.
For now, though, demand is growing, and carmakers are one reason why. Lighter car bodies mean more fuel efficiency, better acceleration and braking, and lower carbon emissions.
Range Rover car bodies and workers at Jaguar Land Rover, Solihull, UK A new aluminium Range Rover in the making - minus the family
Novelis has seen a 25% increase in demand from the motor industry in the last year, most of it coming from one of its biggest customers, Jaguar Land Rover, which has just begun manufacturing Range Rovers with aluminium.

Elementary Business

elements symbols
In Elementary Business, BBC World Service's Business Daily goes back to basics and examines key chemical elements - and asks what they mean for businesses and the global economy.
The new car uses use 25% less fuel partly because its body is 39% lighter, helping to reduce the car's total weight by 420kg (925lb).
"That's the equivalent of five people," says Nick Rogers, the Range Rover vehicle line director.
"So, if you imagine driving around with all your family in the car - you feel the weight of the vehicle.
"When you get in the new Range Rover Sport, all of your family has gone."
Currently, Novelis obtains almost 50% of its aluminium used to make a new Range Rover from junk - empty cans, scrapped vehicles, demolition sites - and it aims to raise that to 80% by 2020.
One challenge is to ensure that more aluminium finds its way into the recycling loop.
"In the UK, I believe the recycle rate [of household aluminium waste] is about 75%," Madden says.
Whether bauxite mining is still needed in our grandchildren's day may depend on the proportion we succeed in recycling, and whether we keep coming up with new uses for aluminium - either the light, malleable metal, or the hard almost unscratchable sapphire.

China establishes 'air-defence zone' over East China Sea


Islands in the East China Sea, called Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in ChineseThe Senkaku/Diaoyu islands have been a source of tension between China and Japan for decades

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China has demarcated an "air-defence identification zone" over an area of the East China Sea, covering islands that are also claimed by Japan.
China's Defence Ministry said aircraft entering the zone must obey its rules or face "emergency defensive measures".
The islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, are a source of rising tension between the countries.
Japan lodged a strong protest over what it said was an "escalation".

Analysis

The confrontation between China and Japan in the East China Sea has been building for more than a year and neither side shows any sign of backing down. China's declaration of an air-defence identification zone threatens to expand what has largely been a maritime contest into the air.
In recent weeks, China has flown bombers and a drone close to Japanese territory, prompting Japan to scramble fighter jets. Beijing is now warning that it too could send up fighters if Japanese planes enter the disputed area.
Both sides have been careful to avoid clashes in the area and the contest has so far been largely confined to rhetoric and games of cat and mouse between coastguard vessels. But China's tactic of persistently challenging Japanese sovereignty in the area has proved counter productive as Japan moves to bolster its own military posture.
"Setting up such airspace unilaterally escalates the situations surrounding Senkaku islands and has danger of leading to an unexpected situation," Japan's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Taiwan, which also claims the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands, expressed regret at the move and promised that the military would take measure to protect national security.
'No specific target'
In its statement, the Chinese Defence Ministry said aircraft must report a flight plan, "maintain two-way radio communications", and "respond in a timely and accurate manner" to identification inquiries.
"China's armed forces will adopt defensive emergency measures to respond to aircraft that do not co-operate in the identification or refuse to follow the instructions," said the statement.
It said the zone came into effect from 10:00 local time (02:00GMT) on Saturday.
State news agency Xinhua showed a map on its website covering a wide area of the East China Sea, including regions very close to South Korea and Japan.
Responding to questions about the zone on an official state website, a defence ministry spokesman, Yang Yujun, said China set up the area "with the aim of safeguarding state sovereignty, territorial land and air security, and maintaining flight order".
"It is not directed against any specific country or target," he said, adding that China "has always respected the freedom of over-flight in accordance with international law".
map of east china sea and declared air defence zone
"Normal flights by international airliners in the East China Sea Air Defence Identification Zone will not be affected in any way."
The islands have been a source of tension between China and Japan for decades.
In 2012, the Japanese government bought three of the islands from their Japanese owner, sparking mass protests in Chinese cities.

Air-defence identification zones

  • Zones do not necessarily overlap with airspace, sovereign territory or territorial claims
  • States define zones, and stipulate rules that aircraft must obey; legal basis is unclear
  • During WW2, US established an air perimeter and now maintains four separate zones - Guam, Hawaii, Alaska, and a contiguous mainland zone
  • UK, Norway, Japan and Canada also maintain zones
Since then, Chinese ships have repeatedly sailed in and out of what Japan says are its territorial waters.
In September this year, Japan said it would shoot down unmanned aircraft in Japanese airspace after an unmanned Chinese drone flew close to the disputed islands.
China said that any attempt by Japan to shoot down Chinese aircraft would constitute "an act of war".
Last month Japan's defence minister, Itsunori Onodera, said China's behaviour over the disputed East China Sea islands was jeopardising peace.
BBC World Service East Asia editor Charles Scanlon says the confrontation over the small chain of uninhabited islands is made more intractable by conflicting claims for potentially rich energy resources on the sea bed.
But the issue has now become a nationalist touchstone in both countries, making it hard for either side to be seen to back down, he says.

Horrors of India's brothels documented


A sex worker in MumbaiGuddi, 22, says she is 'trapped' in Mumbai's red light district

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British photojournalist Hazel Thompson has spent the last decade documenting the lives of girls trafficked into India's thriving sex industry. She spoke to Atish Patel about her experiences.
Guddi was only 11 years old when her family was persuaded by a neighbour to send her to the city of Mumbai hundreds of miles away from her poverty-stricken village in the eastern state of West Bengal.
They promised her a well-paid job as a housemaid to help feed her family.
Instead, she ended up at one of Asia's largest red light districts to become a sex worker.
Trafficked by her neighbour, she arrived at a brothel. She was raped by a customer and spent the next three months in hospital.
'Harrowing'
Guddi's sad and harrowing story is similar to many of the estimated 20,000 sex workers in Kamathipura, established over 150 years ago during colonial rule as one of Mumbai's "comfort zones" for British soldiers.
"They raped her to break her," said Ms Thompson.

Find out more

Hazel Thompson
  • Hazel Thompson is an award winning British photojournalist
  • She has worked in over 40 countries
  • She has made a short film called Riva & Albert, a story of friendship and love beyond generations
Ms Thompson's journey into Kamathipura started in 2002 when she travelled there to photograph children born into the sex trade. The result is her new, interactive ebook, Taken.
Mumbai's oldest and largest red light district is a maze of around 14 dingy, cramped lanes overlooked by gleaming, new skyscrapers - symbols of India's recent economic prosperity that has lifted millions out of poverty.
But in Kamathipura, time seems to have stood still.
Throughout the 1800s, the British military established and maintained brothels for its troops to use across India.
The girls, many in their early teens from poor, rural Indian families, were recruited and paid directly by the military, which also set their prices.
By 1864, there were eight neighbourhoods in Mumbai which were home to more than 500 prostitutes. Almost 60 years later, there were only two, with Kamathipura being the largest.
"The system is continuing to be fed to this day," Ms Thompson said.
To protect the women from violent customers, police introduced bars to the windows and doors of brothels in the 1890s.
These "cages" still exist today and some women continue to work and live in the same brothels constructed by the British.
"Nothing has changed for 120 years. Nothing," Ms Thompson claimed.
Today the women charge up to 500 rupees ($8; £5) for sex and girls aged between 12 and 16 can earn up to 2,000 rupees($32; £20), she added.
Virgins in Kamathipura are auctioned to the highest bidder.
'Modern day slavery'
The 35-year-old photographer was able to gain access to this secret world after reaching out to Bombay Teen Challenge, a charity consisting of former sex workers and pimps who for more than 20 years have been rescuing and rehabilitating women working in Kamathipura.
Entering the brothels initially under the guise of an aid worker, she shot images discreetly from the back of vehicles, the roofs of buildings and under her scarf.
Book coverMs Thompson's ebook uses texts, images and videos on life in brothels
"The way I worked was I would go in and come out. I would spend a few days and attention would build up so I would leave," she said.
She felt constantly on edge every time she went into the district, reaching a tipping point in 2010 when she was manhandled by a gangster while she interacted with a prostitute.
"Along the journey there were many times I wanted to give up," she added.
Ms Thompson's ebook, which uses texts, images and videos to get a sense of what life is like in Kamathipura, also includes stories from women who managed to escape from a situation she describes as "modern-day slavery".
Lata, for example, was tricked and trafficked by her boyfriend at the age of 16, when she was drugged and taken to Mumbai from the southern state of Karnataka.
But years later, with the help of Bombay Teen Challenge, she was reunited with her family and now lives in a rehabilitation home run by the charity.
"In the 11 years I've been there, I've never met one woman who has chosen to be there. Every woman I've met has been trafficked or born there," Ms Thompson said.
"These girls who have been trafficked can't return to their families because of the stigma and [yet it is] often [they who] are responsible for them being in Kamathipura," she added.
The British photojournalist is also launching a campaign with the UK-based Jubilee Charity calling for India and other countries to criminalise the purchase of sex.
In April, the Indian government amended the law to broaden the types of crimes considered to be a trafficking offence and established harsher sentences for traffickers.
But enforcement of anti-trafficking laws remains a problem, as does official complicity, according to the US State Department's Trafficking in Persons Report 2013.
"Countries like Sweden and Norway have made the purchase of sexual services illegal and it has had a profound impact on demand, causing trafficking to also decrease significantly," Ms Thompson said.
"This change is desperately needed for Mumbai and all of India."

London 'slavery' case women met 'in collective'


Police in BrixtonPolice are carrying out door-to-door inquiries in Brixton

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Two of the three women found last month in an alleged slavery case in London met the man who has been arrested via a "collective", police say.
Officers said a couple arrested in the case came to the UK from India and Tanzania in the 1960s.
They said a 30-year-old woman also found has a birth certificate but no other official papers.
Police are making house-to-house inquiries in the Brixton area of south London as part of the investigation.
Inquiries are thought to be being carried out in Peckford Place.
The alleged victims - a 30-year-old British woman, a 57-year-old Irish woman and a 69-year-old Malaysian woman - are now in the care of a specialist non-governmental organisation after they were rescued from what police said was a "residential address" last month.
'Shared political ideology'
The case came to light after the Irish woman rang the Freedom Charity to say she had been held against her will.
A couple, both aged 67 and thought to be married, were arrested on Thursday.
Police have not yet revealed what they have been arrested on suspicion of.
In a statement, Cdr Steve Rodhouse of the Metropolitan Police, said: "We believe that two of the victims met the male suspect in London through a shared political ideology, and that they lived together at an address that you could effectively call a 'collective'."
He said when the women were removed from the house on 25 October it was agreed "that police would not at that stage take any action".
"Since that date we have been working to gain their trust and evidence, that came to fruition on 21 November when we were in a position to make arrests," he said.
"Between the 25 October and 21 November none of the three victims were reported missing to the police."
Aneeta Prem, founder of Freedom Charity, said: "We have seen an extraordinary rise in calls to our helpline since the rescue of the three women came into the public domain.
"We received five times as many calls in 24 hours as we normally do in one week and are needing to increase our resources to cope with this extra demand.
"These women have had traumatic and distributing experiences, which they have revealed to us.
"What needs to happen now is that the three victims, who have begun a long process of recovery, are able to go through their rehabilitation undisturbed, without being identified."

Egypt expels Turkish ambassador


Mohammed Morsi on trial in a Cairo courtroom on 4 November 2013Mohammed Morsi is facing trial on charges of inciting murder and violence
Egypt has told the Turkish ambassador to leave the country and downgraded relations between the two countries.
It follows remarks by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Cairo deemed "provocative".
Egypt's foreign ministry said relations with Ankara would be lowered to charge d'affaires, blaming Turkey's continued "interference" in its internal affairs.
Turkey has been a vocal critic of the military overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in July.
Mr Morsi, who is in prison awaiting trial, has denounced as illegitimate the court that is trying him on charges of inciting murder and violence.
He is one of thousands of Muslim Brotherhood members that have been detained in a crackdown the interim authorities have portrayed as a struggle against "terrorism".
Hundreds of people have also been killed in clashes with security forces.
Bitter row
Responding to Cairo's decision to expel ambassador Huseyin Avni Botsali, Turkey also announced the downgrading of ties to the level of charge d'affaires.
The foreign ministry also barred Egypt's ambassador to Turkey, declaring him "persona non grata".
The latest deterioration in relations comes a day after Mr Erdogan called for the release of Mr Morsi.
The Turkish leader again condemned the violent dispersal of pro-Morsi protesters in August by Egyptian security forces.
Egyptian activists and pro-government protesters demonstrate outside the Turkish embassy in Cairo (August 2013)Egyptians have held protests outside the Turkish embassy in Cairo
A bitter row at the time led both countries to recall their ambassadors.
Turkey's ambassador to Cairo returned in September, but the Egyptian ambassador to Turkey was never reinstalled.
Speaking on Saturday, Egypt's Foreign Ministry spokesman said Mr Erdogan's remarks were "provocative and interfering in Egypt's internal affairs".
Turkey is "attempting to influence public opinion against Egyptian interests, supported meetings of organisations that seek to create instability in the country", Badr Abdelatty said.
Mr Erdogan, like Mr Morsi, has his roots in political Islam. Ankara and Istanbul have hosted a series of meetings of the international Muslim Brotherhood.

FEDERALISM: A VALID INSTRUMENT FOR RECONCILIATION IN SOMALIA?


By Marco Zoppi
The constitution approved in 2012 represents an opportunity for Somalia to re-establish a central government which has been absent for the last two decades, and reach a stability that its society lacks since the pre-colonial era. The constitution envisages the implementation of a federalist structure for the new Somali state, a solution that is facing a number of issues in the prickly Somali political environment. However, these issues do not seem to be insurmountable; the question is if the Somali Federal Government (SFG) and the other actors involved are approaching the question with proper legal means and good intentions. Now as before, the core of the matter lies both in the relationship among Somali clans as well as in the harmonization of the different sources of authority which can be found on the ground. The analysis of federalism in Somalia, as it has been formulated so far, can thus shed light on the progress made towards stability and consequently on the practical possibilities to overcome a political impasse that has lasted over twenty years.
FEDERALISM IN THE 2012 CONSTITUTION
somali_constitutionThe configuration of the Somali State as a federalist one has been decided by the National Constituent Assembly, which adopted the Draft Constitution on August 1, 2012.
Article One states unequivocally that “Somalia is a federal, sovereign, and democratic republic founded on inclusive representation of the people and a multiparty system and social justice”.
Leafing through the document, one reads that “the Federal Republic of Somalia is founded upon the fundamental principles of power sharing in a federal system” (Art.3) and that shari’a maintains its supremacy on the constitution (Art.4). The subsequent articles of the constitution dedicated to federalism can be found in “Chapter 5: Devolution of the powers of government in the Federal Republic of Somalia” (Articles 48 to 54). In this section, the constitution describes the collaborative spirit that shall be established between the federal government and the federal state government level, and goes on by listing practical issues that need to be approached with a cooperative relationship. Neither the Constitution nor other documents, however, do provide a comprehensive description of all aspects of the federal system: if, on the one hand, the constitution seems to include much of the federal political system’s principles, on the other it does not directly deal with some other relevant issues, whose specifications are instead entrusted to the decisions which will be taken by three institutional bodies:
1) Federal State Parliaments
2) The House of the people (the lower house of the Federal Parliament)
3) A National Commission appointed by the House of the people
These bodies have the task of solving questions as urgent and relevant as the definition of the federal boundaries. Nevertheless, two of the three are not really operative at the moment.
Following constitution’s regulation, the House of the people has the specific task of defining the territorial extension of federal states, yet before doing that it needs preliminary analyses on the issue which will be conducted by the National Commission. Afterwards, the single federal state parliament can proceed with further division of its own territory into districts. As seen, the National Commission is appointed by the House of the people: article 49 entrusts in fact the Lower House with the duty of defining:
1) responsibilities and powers of the National Commission;
2) parameters and conditions that shall be used for the establishment of the federal Member States;
3) the number of the commissioners, requirements for the appointment and terms of office.
We can extract two principles here. Firstly, the House of the people has a substantial power over the National Commission it shall establish. The National Commission in fact will carry out a preliminary research that anyway depends on specific parameters and conditions expressed by the Lower house, with no real spaces for autonomous moves. It is important that the Lower House enjoys popular legitimacy all the way through in order for the National Commission, and for the boundaries which commissioners will trace, to obtain legitimacy too.
Secondly, a well-defined hierarchical structure does emerge in this section of the constitution, yet it leaves itself vulnerable to a multilevel political power bargaining, as every level maintains, proportionally, a margin of negotiation and influence on the final boundary organization: a potential minefield of political conflict, overlapping interests and procrastination.
Marco Zoppi
Email: marcozoppi@hotmail.it

Monday, 18 November 2013

HEAD OF SOMAIL DELEGATION TO 3RD AFRICA-ARAB SUMMIT ARRIVES IN KUWAIT


jawaariKUWAIT, (KUNA) — Head of the Somali delegation to the 3rd Africa-Arab Summit of November 19-20, Parliament Speaker Mohamed Sheikh Osman Jawari, arrived in Kuwait on Monday.
Jawari was received at the airport by the Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs and Health Minister Sheikh Mohammad Al-Abdullah Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah.
Source: KUNA

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Face Ache: The woman who lost teeth for nothing



woman in painThe searing pain of trigeminal neuralgia is normally felt on one side of the face
Having your teeth pulled is one thing. Having them pulled because of a misdiagnosis is quite another.
But this is what happened to Ann Eastman, who suffers from a rare condition which inflicts excruciating pain that mimics toothache but is in fact related to damaged nerves in the face.
At its worst, the pain of trigeminal neuralgia - on the right hand side of her face, from her temple to her lower jaw - seriously affected her life.
"I was just standing there, screaming and screaming, the pain was unbelievable. My husband said 'Be quiet! The neighbours will call the police!"
Ann can laugh about it now but when she first experienced overwhelming facial pain she was petrified.

Start Quote

I was just standing there, screaming and screaming, the pain was unbelievable. My husband said 'Be quiet! The neighbours will call the police!”
Ann Eastman
According to Professor Joanna Zakrzewska - Professor Zak to her patients - this is all too common a story. A frightened patient, often misdiagnosed for months, or even years, in terrible and unremitting pain.
At her clinic at the Eastman Dental hospital in London she sees patients and carries out research into this little-understood condition.
Ann is 71 and the average age when trigeminal neuralgia starts is in the fifties or sixties - but it can affect teenagers and even children.
The trigeminal nerve - we have one on each side of the face - is responsible for sensation in the face as well as movements like biting and chewing. It is thought that, as we get older, nearby blood vessels can squash it.
"Compression of the nerve causes the myelin sheath - which is the protective cover of nerves of different types - to get worn away," says Professor Zak, "and as a result of that you get crosstalk between strands of the nerve that transmit 'light touch' and those that transmit sharp pain."
Ann Eastman saw her dentist.
Ann EastmanAnn Eastman had two teeth removed before the real cause of her pain was discovered.
"He said come in straight away. He looked at it and gave me x-rays and he said I can't really see anything but you've got a crown there, I'll remove the crown just in case there's something going on underneath the crown."
Days later and still in pain, Ann returned to her dentist who suggested she see another specialist with a very powerful microscope. His verdict after looking closely at her tooth: that there was a problem with its nerves and the tooth needed to be extracted.
"I went back to the dentist and he took the remainder of the tooth out because it was like a stump underneath the crown. I went home and waited for the pain to wear off. But the pain was still there - there was no tooth but it was still there in the exact spot."
Like many people in search of answers, Ann turned to the internet.
"I started googling... It took me straight to trigeminal neuralgia. I read this and I said to myself 'I have not got that because it said it's incurable.'"
After yet another painful episode over Christmas, a new dentist extracted another tooth.
Two teeth down, and seven months after her first attack, Ann's dentist called her. He said he'd found an expert at the Eastman dental hospital.
She saw one of Professor Zak's colleagues.

SOME OF THE SIGNS OF TRIGEMINAL NEURALGIA

  • The pain often scores 10/10, sometimes described as "suicidal"
  • Pain ranges from sudden, severe, stabbing, constant, burning or aching
  • Triggers can include contact with the cheek such as shaving or applying make up
  • Pain rarely occurs at night when the patient is sleeping
  • Attacks stop for a period and then return, usually worsening over time with fewer and shorter pain-free periods
"Just as I walked through the door I had the most terrible episode. She was sitting there holding my hand saying 'Classic case, classic case.' And I was put on anti-convulsants - a drug called carbamazepine."
This drug can have significant side effects so patients are advised to start with a low dose and increase it slowly.
"When it controls the pain then you stay at that level," says Ann.
"When you feel it has suddenly stopped you still get little jabs, particularly when you eat. Prior to that you can't eat, just puree and shovel it in with a teaspoon at one side. The chewing action just triggers the pain."
Patients are advised to carry the medication with them even when on holiday, so they can start taking it again straight away if the pain returns.
Some patients notice a seasonal pattern for their pain: Keith Ireland has only ever had trigeminal neuralgia attacks in winter. So far this year he remains in remission.
"There are a few triggers: hot and cold food and drink; and for me, a powerful electric toothbrush I started using triggered a particularly bad episode. I have switched back to the old one again."
Keith IrelandKeith Ireland only suffered attacks in winter.
He too struggled to get a diagnosis for the pain that centred just in front of his ear but his symptoms were eventually controlled by the drug neurontin gabapentin. "When I found the effective dose it did control the pain considerably, though never completely."
The surgical option is quite a serious undertaking, according to Professor Zakrzewska.
"The biggest operation which gives the longest pain relief is a big neurosurgical procedure that done in the right hands can render a patient pain-free - 70% of patients will be pain-free 10 years later - if we get the diagnosis right and we find a vessel that's pressing on the nerve."
Scans should also be done on the patient to rule out much more rare causes - like tumours.
Other options include those which destroy the nerve - a better option for patients who cannot undergo a general anaesthetic for surgery according to Professor Zakrzewska.
"These try and destroy that nerve, transmitting information and hence stop the pain. These are much smaller procedures, they include - as I call it - 'cooking' the nerve - what's called radiofrequency thermo-coagulation, bathing it in glycerol - or even now we've got the new gamma knife."
Pain relief normally lasts for up to 4 years after these procedures but they can be repeated. Patients can experience a numbness or loss of sensation in the face.
"We really still are struggling with trying to find out what causes this dreadful condition," says Professor Zakrzewska.
But there could be hope on the horizon, she adds.
"I'm doing a major international drug trial using a brand new sodium channel blocker that we hope will mean we can have a drug that's more effective in controlling this pain with fewer side effects - and so far initial things seem to suggest that it may be a breakthrough."

UN: Starvation threatens 2 million in drought-hit Somalia

Fri Sep 13, 2019 01:44PM [Updated: Fri Sep 13, 2019 01:52PM ] Home Africa Somalia A newly arrived woman fleeing from the drought...