Symptoms and Causes of Trigeminal Neuralgia

Trigeminal Neuralgia, or TN, is a condition which affects the 5th cranial, or trigeminal, nerve. Type1 or TN1 form of Trigeminal Neuralgia causes sudden and extreme facial pain whose onset is sporadic, lasting from a few seconds to several minutes at a time.

Pain associated with TN varies and can be triggered by vibration of, or contact with, the cheek. It can be localized or widespread across the face. It often increases in severity and frequency until in some cases it becomes constant, with fewer and shorter intervals between pain attacks.

There are a variety of potential causes of TN. Damage to the myelin sheath, a protective coating around the nerve from causes such a pressure from a blood vessel is one such possibility. This is a not an uncommon occurrence among patients with multiple sclerosis, a disease noted for deterioration of the myelin sheath. Other possible though less common causes include tumors, injury to the trigeminal nerve from surgery, stroke, or vascular malformation.

Trigeminal Neuralgia Treatment

Treatment for trigeminal neuralgia will in most cases begin with antiseizure drugs such as Neurontin (gabapentin) and Tegretol (carbamazepine), and/or pain relief medication (Depakote, Klonopin).

In cases where medications prove ineffective or cause unwanted side effects, we will relieve nerve pressure by way of a neurosurgical procedure. Microvascular decompression will relieve the pressure on the trigeminal nerve caused by a blood vessel by gently moving the vessel away from the point of compression or ligating it.

While microvascular decompression is the most effective procedure to relieve pressure on the trigeminal nerve, it is also the most invasive. As such, it is considered only after exhausting other less invasive means. Glycerol injection is one such procedure, wherein a small amount of sterile glycerol is guided into the trigeminal nerve to block pain signals.

Contact our office today to schedule an appointment for you or a family member with one of our specialists.