Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) is a chronic pain condition caused by the dysfunction of the trigeminal nerve, a sensory nerve that sends signals to the brain from large areas of the face and mouth. This disorder is typically characterized by episodes of severe, sharp burning or electric shock-like shooting pain on one side of the face (TN1), or less frequently, by continuous aching facial pain (TN2).
Trigeminal neuralgia is not dangerous but has a major impact on patients’ quality of life, often forcing patients to forgo usual activities due to pain levels or to avoid triggering an episode. This disorder may also be called tic douloureux, Fothergill’s disease, or trifacial neuralgia.
The hallmark symptom of trigeminal neuralgia is pain localized to one side of the face, which can manifest in a few different ways. Classic symptoms of the disorder are those typified by TN1, where short, intense episodes of pain are experienced in a relatively small area on one side of the face repeatedly over time. In TN2, individual experience more continuous pain over a wider area. In both types, flushing may occur on the affected side of the face.
It is possible to experience both TN1 and TN2 symptoms, or very rarely, have symptoms on both sides of the face, or bilateral trigeminal neuralgia.
- Repeated episodes of intense, sharp, electric shock-like pain on one side of the face.
- Episodes can last anywhere from a few seconds to two minutes or come in clusters lasting up to two hours.
- Episodes may increase in frequency and severity over time.
- Episodes can occur without a trigger but are often triggered by movement of or contact with the affected area, such as talking or brushing teeth.
- Pain is severe and can be physically and mentally incapacitating.
- Constant, dull aching or burning pain on one side of the face
- Usually covers a larger area than TN1
In most cases, trigeminal neuralgia is caused by compression of the trigeminal nerve by a blood vessel. Other causes can include pressure from tumors, direct injury to the trigeminal nerve itself, or other conditions that can damage nervous tissues, such as multiple sclerosis.
How is trigeminal neuralgia diagnosed and treated?
Trigeminal neuralgia is diagnosed based on symptoms reported to your doctor along with in-office physical and neurological examinations. In addition, your doctor may order an MRI to examine the blood vessels and tissues surrounding the trigeminal nerve and assess potential causes.
Once diagnosed, there are several treatment options available for trigeminal neuropathy. Your doctor may recommend treating this condition surgically, with one or more medications, or with a combination of the two.
Medications used to control neuropathic pain include:
- anticonvulsants (anti-seizure medications)
- muscle relaxants
- tricyclic antidepressants
Surgical treatments either seek to alleviate pressure on the trigeminal nerve or lesion the nerve to disrupt its transmission of pain signals. These include:
- microvascular decompression
- stereotactic surgery
- percutaneous balloon compression
- percutaneous rhizotomy
Why Choose NGPG?
NGPG Neuroscience employs a team of board-certified neurologists, neurosurgeons, neurointerventional surgeons, neuropsychiatrists, and other specialists who provide high-quality care and up-to-date treatments through our two outpatient Neurology office locations. We offer imaging and surgical care at Northeast Georgia Medical Center’s state-of-the-art facilities, ensuring our patients’ access to all the services of a leading hospital alongside our excellent outpatient care.
Request an appointment
To request an appointment please call our office phone at (770) 219-6520.