At Orange County CyberKnife, we strive to provide industry-leading radiation therapy treatments to patients throughout the greater Orange County, CA area. We can treat a wide variety of conditions from our state-of-the-art radiation oncology center, including some noncancerous conditions like trigeminal neuralgia (TN). We want to be a resource through every part of the treatment process, so we’ve gathered a few of the most common questions about TN alongside their answers.
Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) is a chronic pain disorder affecting the 5th cranial nerve, or trigeminal nerve. TN is normally characterized by sudden, intense attacks of shock-like facial pain, often described as feeling like an electrocution. Unfortunately, TN is one of the most severe pain conditions known to medicine. While the cause of TN isn’t always known, it may be caused by abnormal blood vessels pushing on the trigeminal nerve, tumors, or degenerative nerve diseases like multiple sclerosis.
Neuropathic facial pain is also known as atypical trigeminal neuralgia. Generally, atypical TN causes a duller, constant burning pain, while typical TN causes sharp stabbing pain. It’s possible for patients to suffer from both conditions at the same time.
While the causes aren’t fully understood, scientists think that TN is caused by damage to the protective coating of the trigeminal nerve, a substance called myelin. Myelin damage may come from a blood vessel or tumor pressing on the nerve, or from multiple sclerosis or abnormal growths
There are no definitive tests for TN, which means it’s diagnosed only by the patient’s descriptions of symptoms. MRIs may be used to rule out other sources of facial pain or to look for signs of tumors or multiple sclerosis that may be causing TN.
Absolutely. TN is said to be the most severe pain condition known to exist, and both typical and atypical TN are considered impairments.
Yes, support groups exist, and many people find that talking with others who experience the same thing can help. Counseling is another option for sorting through the challenges and stresses that can accompany this kind of pain.
TN is often treated with anticonvulsant medications such as Tegretol, Dilantin, Carbatrol, Trileptal, and Lyrica. Medication can help some patients, but it isn’t always effective. Side effects can make it difficult to concentrate, but may go away as your body adjusts to the medication. Usually, patients will need to work with their doctor to find a medication regimen that works for them.
Generally, no. While it’s possible for TN to recede, it usually comes in cycles. Your TN may go into remission for weeks, months, or years, but on average, the condition gets more severe with time.
Treatment options will vary from patient to patient, and they depend on both the type of TN you have and the cause. Treatments may include:
Before going into surgery, talk with your surgeon about the possible risks, side-effects, and recovery period for the procedure. Some procedures don’t produce results until months after the operation, so it’s important to know what to expect. Also be sure to ask the success rate of your surgeon with the procedure, including a discussion of what constitutes success.
TN is difficult, debilitating condition, but there may be hope for treatment. Contact us today to learn more about the treatments we offer and schedule a consultation. We’ll help you understand your condition, evaluate your treatment options, and start on the road to relief.