Trigeminal neuralgia is an extremely painful inflammation of the trigeminal nerve which causes severe lightning-like facial pain and spasm of the facial muscles.

The pain attacks may be severe enough to cause a facial grimace, which is classically referred to as a painful tic (tic douloureux).

Trigeminal Neuralgia Causes

The causes of neuralgias are varied and can include:

  • Chemicals can cause nerve irritation
  • Inflammation
  • Trauma (including surgery)
  • Compression by adjacent structures (tumors or inflamed tissues)
  • Infections
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Certain forms of arthritis
  • Diabetes

In many cases, however, the cause is unknown or unidentifiable.

Neuralgias are most common in the elderly, but can occur at any age.

Trigeminal Neuralgia Diagnosis and Treatment

A brain and nervous system (neurologic) examination is usually performed. Tests to look for the cause may include:

  • Blood vessel tests
  • MRI of the head
  • Trigeminal reflex testing

Your primary care doctor, neurologist or pain specialist may be involved in your care.

Specific medications can be very effective in reducing the rate of attacks, but surgical intervention may be necessary.

Wake Forest Baptist Approach

Our neurosurgery group offers the latest state-of-the-art procedures to help alleviate the pain associated with trigeminal neuralgia.

Neurosurgeon Adrian Laxton, MD, has special expertise in the treatment of trigeminal neuralgia.

Treatment options may include microsurgery, Gamma Knife, procedures in the Angiogram suite, and percutanious rhizatomy.