Trigeminal neuralgia is a nerve disorder that causes a pain frequently described as a lightning strike or electric shock to the face.
This pain comes from the trigeminal nerve, which carries sensations of touch and pain from the face, eyes, sinuses and mouth to the brain.
The main symptom of trigeminal neuralgia (also called tic douloureux) is excruciating pain. There are two types of trigeminal neuralgia:
- Type 1 or "classic," which causes sudden, intense flashes of pain
- Type 2 or atypical trigeminal neuralgia, which causes a chronic, burning sensation
Trigeminal Neuralgia Treatment at Rush
Your treatment options can depend on the following:
- What type it is (either type 1 or atypical)
- Whether all three branches of the trigeminal nerve are affected
- What is causing the pain (for example, whether from multiple sclerosis or blood vessels being compressed, known as vascular compression)
Doctors at Rush will explore your medical options for nerve pain relief, including the following:
- Anticonvulsant drugs: These medications slow down pain signals traveling through your nerves.
- Nerve block: Nerve blocks offer temporary relief. They are injections of pain-relieving drugs directly into the affected nerve.
If your trigeminal nerve pain is not relieved by medication, surgery may be an option. Neurosurgeons at Rush offer the following procedures:
- Microvascular decompression: Your neurosurgeon moves the blood vessel that is compressing the nerve and places a cushion between the nerve and the blood vessel.
- Percutaneous radiofrequency rhizotomy: Your neurosurgeon injects a needle into the nerve that is then heated to lessen nerve signals.
- Radiosurgery: Your neurosurgeon works with radiation therapists at Rush to deliver focused radiation on the trigeminal nerve. This destroys the pain-causing nerve fibers.
Rush Excellence in Trigeminal Neuralgia Care
- Solutions for trigeminal neuralgia pain: Although trigeminal neuralgia is not life-threatening, it can be both physically and mentally debilitating. Rush general neurologists, pain management physicians and neurosurgeons understand the emotional and physical toll it can take on you and work with you to find a solution.
- Surgical expertise: Neurosurgeons at Rush have extensive experience treating trigeminal neuralgia using a variety of surgical procedures. This experience gives them a balanced view of all the surgical options, which allows them to make the best choice for your needs.
- Radiosurgery accuracy: Rush offers TrueBeam Stx radiosurgery to treat trigeminal neuralgia. TrueBeam has an advanced computer-imaging system that compensates for small head movements, allowing patients to lie comfortably during the procedure.
- Acupuncture therapy: Some people with trigeminal neuralgia find relief through acupuncture. Licensed providers at Rush regularly use acupuncture to complement other treatments or as an alternative to traditional medical therapy.
- Nationally ranked neurosciences: Neurology and neurosurgery at Rush are consistently ranked among the best in the country by U.S. News & World Report in its annual "Best Hospitals" issue.