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If you are experiencing electric-like shocks of pain in one side of your face, you may be suffering from a condition known as trigeminal neuralgia. While there are many different treatments for trigeminal neuralgia, Gamma Knife Radiosurgery is a non-surgical, outpatient treatment that can have lasting positive effects on your condition.

Facial pain due to trigeminal neuralgia seems to come on for no apparent reason. The pain can be sharp and severe and can limit your ability to concentrate fully on work or recreational activities. Your symptoms may be accompanied by muscle spasms in your jaw or face and may also include burning or tingling in your face.

Different activities may trigger your trigeminal neuralgia symptoms. These may include:

  • Lightly brushing up against your face or cheek
  • Shaving
  • Excessive chewing
  • Brushing your teeth

If you are having any sort of facial pain or spasm, visit your doctor right away to confirm your trigeminal neuralgia diagnosis and to rule out any other process that may be causing your symptoms. Other causes of facial pain may include stroke, multiple sclerosis, tumor or jaw and sinus problems.

Finding the cause of your symptoms and getting a proper diagnosis of trigeminal neuralgia can help you understand your condition and the best ways to treat it.

What Causes Trigeminal Neuralgia?

Trigeminal neuralgia is typically caused by irritation of your 5th cranial nerve, called the trigeminal nerve. Cranial nerves arise from your brain and brainstem and typically provide sensory and motor pathways to structures around your head and face. When your trigeminal nerve becomes irritated, the myelin sheath that insulates the nerve may be worn away, and pain along the nerve’s pathways may be felt.

One of the most common causes of trigeminal neuralgia is rubbing against the nerve by a neighboring artery. This rubbing irritates the nerve, causing your facial pain symptoms. One of the primary treatments for trigeminal neuralgia is to decrease this rubbing or decrease the transmission of messages through the nerve to your face.

Trigeminal Neuralgia Treatments

There are many different treatments available to trigeminal neuralgia. When you are first diagnosed, your doctor will likely prescribe medication to help control your pain. Medicine typically used for trigeminal neuralgia includes anticonvulsant or antispasmodic drugs.

Your doctor may also attempt a course of injections to help decrease your symptoms. Injections of baclofen may be used to decrease spasm, and anti-inflammatory medication may be used to decrease inflammation around your trigeminal nerve root.

Many people with trigeminal neuralgia benefit from a definitive surgical treatment to properly alleviate their symptoms. There are three different surgical procedures typically used to treat trigeminal neuralgia: stimulator placement, microvascular decompression and Gamma Knife Radiosurgery.

Many New Jersey residents suffering from trigeminal neuralgia choose to undergo Gamma Knife Radiosurgery. Understanding the procedure and its potential benefits can help you make an informed decision about Gamma Knife Radiosurgery for your trigeminal neuralgia.

What is Gamma Knife Radiosurgery?

Gamma Knife Radiosurgery is a type of non-surgical procedure that relatively few NJ neurosurgeons are qualified to use. In actuality, Gamma Knife Radiosurgery does not require a knife or an incision.

During the procedure, your doctor will affix a head frame to your skull. The frame is necessary for accuracy and keeps your head absolutely still during the treatment. Once completed, your neurosurgeon will work with a team of radiation specialists to deliver focused beams of radiation to the base of your symptomatic trigeminal nerve.

The radiation administered specifically to your trigeminal nerve (not your brain) slightly damages the nerve and decreases the transmission of painful stimuli from your face to your brain. When successful, this helps eliminate your neuralgia symptoms.

Benefits of Gamma Knife Radiosurgery for Trigeminal Neuralgia

There are several benefits for choosing Gamma Knife Radiosurgery to treat your trigeminal neuralgia. First, the procedure is relatively painless. The only pain most patients report is that from having the frame placed. Otherwise, no pain is felt as the result of the radiation dose to the trigeminal nerve.

Another benefit to having Gamma Knife Radiosurgery for trigeminal neuralgia is that there is no actual cutting involved. Your radiation dose is delivered to the trigeminal nerve with no incision in your scalp. This means that the procedure is safe and has a low risk of infection or blood loss.

Patients who have Gamma Knife Radiosurgery also enjoy significant facial pain relief. In fact, 70-80 percent of patients experience a significant decrease or elimination of their symptoms if they are diagnosed with typical trigeminal neuralgia. Those with atypical, or type 2, trigeminal neuralgia still can see a benefit from the procedure, but with not as much success.

It is important to work closely with your NJ neurosurgeon to understand your expected outcome from Gamma Knife Radiosurgery. Occasionally patients who have had the procedure have a recurrence of their trigeminal neuralgia symptoms. While this is rare, it may still happen. However, another benefit of Gamma Knife Radiosurgery is that the procedure can be repeated if your symptoms recur.

There are some downsides to every medical procedure. For Gamma Knife Radiosurgery, it takes some time to realize the full benefit from the surgery for trigeminal neuralgia. Other procedures, like microvascular decompression, offer a more rapid relief from pain.

Gamma Knife Radiosurgery requires patience, as it may take a few months for your symptoms to subside. Furthermore, one to three percent of patients treated with surgery can experience facial numbness in a delayed fashion.

When considering Gamma Knife Radiosurgery, it is important to find an NJ neurosurgeon who treats facial pain. Your doctor should be a compassionate professional who takes the time to explain to you the risks and benefits of opting for surgery to treat trigeminal neuralgia. He or she should answer your questions and concerns and feel like a trusted ally when considering the procedure.

Dealing with facial pain due to trigeminal neuralgia can be difficult to do. With many different treatment options available, it is helpful to have a professional neurosurgeon to guide you through the process of finding the best treatment for you.

Gamma Knife Radiosurgery is a well-researched and effective surgical treatment for trigeminal neuralgia. It has the benefit of being a safe, relatively painless procedure that can significantly reduce your facial pain symptoms from trigeminal neuralgia.
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