If a gentle touch to the cheek sends shockwaves of pain through the face, there is a problem worth exploring. Such an experience can be frightening and, because it is not very common, this intense response to mild stimulation can also feel confusing. We’ve got the answers you need to find your way back to optimal comfort.
Unexplainable facial pain associated with touch or other stimulation may stem from the trigeminal nerve. This, the largest cranial nerve may be disrupted by some type of pressure. When pressure is exerted on the trigeminal nerve, we refer to the condition as trigeminal neuralgia. More than needing to name the condition, we want to know why symptoms are occurring.
Symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia may include the occasional, mild twinge. Pain may also feel like an electric shock or a jabbing pain in the teeth, gums, lips, jaw, or cheeks. Some people affected by this condition experience symptoms on one side of the face only. However, discomfort may spread. It may also come and go very quickly or persist for weeks on end. Additionally, the severity of discomfort ranges from mild to debilitating. Because everyday activities like chewing, shaving, and smiling may trigger episodes of pain, it is crucial to determine the cause of symptoms in order to find a solution.
Treat the Nerve, Treat the Face
If trigeminal neuralgia is the cause of uncomfortable symptoms, surgical intervention is likely the last avenue to consider. Initially, medication may be prescribed to inhibit the transmission of pain signals from the trigeminal nerve to the brain. Pharmacologic therapy may also include anticonvulsant medication or muscle relaxants. Alone or in combination, these pharmacologic agents tend to achieve good results.
A second-tier of treatment may be necessary if medication does not achieve the desired results. However, we’re still not looking at surgery at this point. Many patients who do not respond to pharmaceuticals may find that glycerol injections provide necessary relief. Injection therapy is administered on an outpatient basis and may achieve long-lasting results.
If a patient eventually needs surgery Dr. Lipani will determine the technique from the details of a particular case. At Princeton Neurological Surgery, we take time to explore treatment options for trigeminal neuralgia and explain them in order to answer any questions that may arise. To discuss recurring or chronic facial pain, call 609-890-3400.