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Trigeminal Neuralgia

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Applying makeup, shaving, washing your face—if you suffer from trigeminal neuralgia, any of these ordinary everyday activities can trigger agonizing pain.

What is trigeminal neuralgia?

Trigeminal neuralgia—also called tic douloureux—is a chronic condition that affects the largest nerve in the head, the fifth cranial or trigeminal nerve, which carries sensations from the face to the brain. This condition is most often triggered by compression of the trigeminal nerve by a normal blood vessel next to the brainstem. Tumors and multiple sclerosis are also possible culprits. In some rare cases, the cause of trigeminal neuralgia is unknown.

Who develops trigeminal neuralgia?

While just about anyone can develop trigeminal neuralgia at any time, it mainly affects women over age 50. Some evidence suggests it could run in families.

What are the symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia?

Common symptoms include:

  • extreme stabbing, lancinating or “electrical" pain, affect one side of the face, such as the area around the eye, cheek and lower portion of the face; pain lasts a few seconds or minutes and comes and goes, but usually becomes worse with time
  • pain triggered by touch, sounds or everyday activities, such as brushing your teeth, chewing, drinking and eating
  • tingling, a numb sensation, or constant aching pain before a new episode begins
  • avoidance of everyday activities because of fear of triggering another attack

How is trigeminal neuralgia diagnosed?

Trigeminal neuralgia can only be diagnosed by talking with an experienced physician about your symptoms. Unfortunately, there are no blood tests or images that can make the diagnosis. As a result, getting the correct diagnosis can be difficult. As a matter of fact, the diagnosis of trigeminal neuralgia is most often made by a dentist, neurologist, internist, or neurosurgeon.

How is trigeminal neuralgia treated?

Anti-seizure drugs, muscle relaxants or tricyclic antidepressants may be prescribed to relieve pain and lessen the number of attacks. At The Valley Hospital, our team can help determine if you might be a candidate for treatments beyond medication, such as surgery (Microvascular decompression) or Gamma Knife radiosurgery.

For more information about trigeminal neuralgia treatment or to set up a consultation, call The Gamma Knife Center Hospital at 201-634-5677 or complete the contact form. Learn more about the Valley Gamma Knife Center on our website.

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