Trigeminal neuralgia is a condition associated with intense pain over the lower part of the face and jaw and typically affects one side of the face. Sometimes it can involve areas around the eye. This sharp, excruciating pain is caused by compression of the nerve that serves the face by a nearby artery or vein. Usually, your doctor can diagnose trigeminal neuralgia by the area affected and the type of pain experienced, not by imaging or laboratory tests.
Treatment of trigeminal neuralgia usually begins with an anticonvulsant medication or a muscle relaxant. For those patients who do not achieve adequate pain control with medications, surgery may be an option. Your neurosurgeon may decide that either microvascular decompression or stereotactic radiosurgery may be best for your particular condition.
Microvascular decompression is a procedure in which the blood vessel compressing the irritated nerve is moved away to relieve the pressure and pain it is causing. Stereotactic radiosurgery is another option and is performed without any incision. Stereotactic radiosurgery involves targeting the trigeminal nerve root with a concentrated dose of radiation that, after several treatments, will prevent the nerve from sending pain signals.