Trigeminal Neuralgia

Neurosurgical Specialists of West County

Neurosurgeons located in Saint Louis, MO

A sudden, severe attack of facial pain that radiates from your jaw might make you book an emergency dental appointment, but if your teeth are heatlhy, then the cause could be trigeminal neuralgia. Neurosurgical Specialists of West County in St. Louis has extensive expertise in diagnosing and treating trigeminal neuralgia and restoring the quality of life to people affected by this debilitating nerve disorder. Call the office today to schedule a consultation.

Trigeminal Neuralgia Q & A

What is trigeminal neuralgia?

Trigeminal neuralgia, or tic douloureux, is a debilitating pain condition in which patients experience sudden, severe attacks of burning or shock-like pain in their face due to a problem with the trigeminal nerve.

Trigeminal neuralgia is a debilitating condition, but there are treatment options available at Neurosurgical Specialists of West County, where our resident trigeminal neuralgia specialists provides effective, up-to-date therapies for patients.

What are the symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia?

Trigeminal neuralgia causes sudden attacks of extreme facial pain that may last a few seconds or up to a couple of minutes. Patients often experience multiple attacks each day, with the pain disappearing as quickly as it came.

The pain is similar to the feeling of an electric shock and usually affects just one side of your face. Pain tends to be in the jaw, but can also radiate to the:

  • Teeth
  • Gums
  • Lips
  • Tongue
  • Throat
  • Cheek
  • Ear
  • Nose
  • Eye
  • Forehead

Trigeminal neuralgia pain tends to worsen over time, with attacks coming more frequently and lasting longer, and the pain becoming more severe. Although initial treatments may help ease the symptoms, they can lose their effectiveness over time.

What causes trigeminal neuralgia?

Trigeminal neuralgia develops when there’s a problem with the functioning of the trigeminal nerve that causes it to send pain signals to the brain when it doesn’t need to. Neurologists believe this happens when the insulating tissue that protects the nerve degrades, effectively meaning the nerve short-circuits.

Trigeminal neuralgia is seen in patients who have an artery, vein, tumor, or other mass pressing on the trigeminal nerve, and can often affects people who have inflammatory lesions, infection or post-infectious injury, or multiple sclerosis.

Trigeminal neuralgia pain often gets triggered by normal, everyday actions such as:

  • Brushing your teeth
  • Talking and smiling
  • Eating and drinking
  • Touching your face
  • Shaving or washing your face

Your surgeon needs to find out as much information about your symptoms as possible to make a diagnosis and may perform an MRI scan of your brain to make sure there’s no other cause for your symptoms.

How is trigeminal neuralgia treated?

There are several treatment options our physicians can provide to customize your care depending on your cause and the severity of your symptoms. Treatment options typically start with a course of anticonvulsant medication, which can be highly effective for some patients. Other treatments include:

Rhizotomy

Minimally invasive treatment using glycerol injection, balloon compression, or radiofrequency ablation to destroy nerve fibers that are transmitting pain.

Radiosurgery

Focused radiation treatment targeted at the trigeminal nerve, resulting in reduced pain.

Microvascular decompression surgery

A surgical procedure that relocates or removes any blood vessels that may be pressing on the trigeminal nerve.

If you’re experiencing facial pain, schedule a consultation by calling Neurosurgical Specialists of West County today.