Trigeminal neuralgia is also known as Tic Douloureux. It is a disorder of the fifth cranial nerve (called the trigeminal nerve), which is one of the largest nerves in the head. The trigeminal nerve and its branches send impulses such as touch and pressure to the brain from the face and forehead, jaw and gums, and the area around the eyes. TN causes sudden, intense, electric-shock like episodes of pain in these areas.
The pain episodes usually last for several seconds, and sometimes repeat one after another. The disorder usually affects one side of the face. Women are more likely to be affected than men, and the vast majority of cases affect patients over the age of 50.
Surgical Treatment Options
The most common surgical option is a microvascular decompression. The surgery involves a small incision behind the ear, followed by removal of a small part of the skull to create a “window” through which the surgeon can access the trigeminal nerve. At this point, any blood vessels putting pressure on the nerve are carefully separated from the nerve. The procedure has a high success rate, but, as with all surgical procedures carries some risks. Your doctor will carefully discuss these potential risks with you.
Trigeminal neuralgia is a very painful disorder. However, it is not fatal. Pain episodes tend to occur for a period, then stop, and then often recur again. Many patients experience relief with medications, and others receive relief from surgery.