Your trigeminal nerve is responsible for delivering sensations felt on your face to your brain. When you have trigeminal neuralgia, the nerve reactions go haywire, and even mild stimulation, such as putting rouge on your cheeks, can cause an instant jolt of excruciating pain.
We treat this painful condition at Texas Neurosurgery.
What happens with trigeminal neuralgia?
In trigeminal neuralgia, the trigeminal nerve’s function is disrupted. In most cases, this disruption is caused by pressure from a normal blood vessel pushing on the nerve.
This can be a result of aging or it can due to disorders like M.S. that damage the myelin sheath protecting the nerve. Tumors can also press on the trigeminal nerve.
What are the symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia?
- Episodes of severe, shooting or jabbing pain that can feel like an electric shock
- Bouts of pain lasting from just a few seconds up to several minutes
- Attacks of serious pain caused by the most innocuous behaviors, such as chewing food or brushing your teeth
- Constant aching, burning feeling that then evolves into more severe, shooting pain
- Pain in areas supplied by the trigeminal nerve: the cheeks, jaw, teeth, gums, lips, and sometimes the eyes and forehead
- Pain affecting usually only one side of the face
- Attacks that increase in frequency and intensity with time
Treatment of trigeminal neuralgia usually begins with medications. These will usually include anticonvulsant drugs and antispasmodic drugs. Botox has shown some effectiveness in patients for whom medications are no longer working.
For some patients, their condition stops responding to medication and surgery becomes necessary.
Two surgical options are:
- Microvascular decompression— This procedure involves surgically removing or relocating blood vessels that are pushing against the trigeminal nerve.
- Brain stereotactic radiosurgery— Here, our Texas Neurosurgery surgeon directs a focused dose of radiation to the root of your trigeminal nerve. Although facial numbness can be a side effect, this radiation damages the trigeminal nerve and usually reduces or eliminates the pain.