Although painful, trigeminal neuralgia can be treated with a variety of non-invasive and surgical means. Some of these options can provide relief for years.
Trigeminal neuralgia is a chronic condition that affects the trigeminal nerve. This nerve carries sensations from the face to the brain. People who have trigeminal neuralgia experience painful jerks along this nerve. These jerks can be caused by mild daily stimulation, such as using a toothbrush.
At first, episodes of trigeminal neuralgia are usually brief and mild. As the condition progresses, the attacks tend to become longer and more painful.
There are a variety of treatment options available that can help manage this condition, including medications, injections, and surgery.
The primary treatment for trigeminal neuralgia is medication. Some are able to control their condition with medication alone and never need to seek other treatment options. Medications that can treat trigeminal neuralgia include:
- Anticonvulsants: Anticonvulsants can help stop pain signals being sent to your brain.
- Muscle relaxants: Muscle relaxant medications can help relieve tension and reduce nerve activity
If you do not respond well to medications, or if you stop responding to medications, your doctor may recommend additional treatment options. This could include:
- Botox injection: Botox can relax facial muscles and relieve pain.
- Glycerol injection: During a glycerol injection, a needle is inserted into an opening at the base of the skull so that a small amount of glycerol can be injected into the cerebrospinal fluid surrounding the trigeminal nerve. This damages the nerve and stops the pain.
- Microvascular decompression: Microvascular decompression is a surgical procedure. During this procedure, the blood vessels that touch the trigeminal root will be moved or completely removed. This can prevent the nerve from malfunctioning and can relieve pain.
- Brain stereotactic radiosurgery (Gamma Knife): This procedure uses radiation directed at the trigeminal nerve root to damage the nerve and eliminate pain.
- Ball compression: Balloon compression uses a needle that is inserted through your face and into your trigeminal nerve. A catheter is then inserted and a pressurized balloon is inflated at the other end. This damages the nerve and blocks pain signals.
- Radiofrequency Thermal Injury: Radiofrequency thermal injury destroys nerve fibers using an electrical current. The current is inserted by placing a hollow needle through your face and into your trigeminal nerve.
Many people have found pain relief from trigeminal neuralgia using natural or complementary methods. These methods have not been studied as well, and there is currently no data to support their use as a reliable method of pain relief.
However, some people report excellent results. It is always a good idea to check with your doctor before considering any natural or complementary treatment.
Popular natural treatments for trigeminal neuralgia include:
There are any number of things that can trigger a painful episode of trigeminal neuralgia. Avoiding these triggers can help you manage your condition and reduce pain. Not everyone with trigeminal neuralgia will have the same triggers, but there are some common triggers. These include:
- wind hitting your face
- touching your face
- drinking without a straw
- being in very dry air
- wash your face in certain ways
- come into contact with very hot liquids
- come into contact with very cold liquids
- chew hard food
- shaved off
- applying makeup
- brushing your teeth
- consuming certain foods and drinks, especially coffee, citrus fruits, and spicy foods
Of course, some of these triggers are much easier to avoid than others. You can wear a scarf to protect your face from the wind, but you can’t help but brush your teeth. However, you can remember to perform daily hygiene activities slowly and carefully.
Your doctor may be able to recommend a time of day that is best to take your medication so that there is less chance of pain during these activities.
Living with a chronic neurological disorder can be daunting, but you don’t have to face it on your own. There are great resources you can turn to for help. You can consult:
- The American Chronic Pain Association: The Chronic Pain Association of America has support groups across the country and online where you can talk to people who understand what you’re going through.
- The Facial Pain Association: You can find a mentor, join a support group, and more with the resources available from the Facial Pain Association.
- Nerve Pain Support Facebook Group: You can connect with other people with nerve pain to share stories, tips, and local resources with this Facebook group.
- The US Pain Foundation: The US Pain Foundation has a library of resources you can use to learn more about your condition, find patient financial assistance programs, find medical care, and more.
Trigeminal neuralgia is a chronic pain disorder that causes episodes of sharp nerve pain on one side of the face. The episodes come on suddenly and can be triggered by light, certain foods, and other everyday sensations.
The condition is treated with medications, including anticonvulsants and muscle relaxants. For some people, this is enough to control trigeminal neuralgia. When it is not, injections to stop the pain, as well as minimally invasive surgical procedures to damage the nerve and block the pain, are also treatment options.
#treatment #trigeminal #neuralgia