If you are experiencing facial pain, burning sensations or spasms in your jaw, you may be suffering from trigeminal neuralgia, a neurological condition that causes episodes of extreme pain in one side of your face or jaw. These symptoms can limit your ability to focus fully on your work and family activities.
Trigeminal neuralgia is a relatively benign condition, but the symptoms can be severe. If you have facial pain, you need to see your doctor right away to get an accurate diagnosis and to start on the correct treatment for your condition.
Many patients with trigeminal neuralgia are able to manage their symptoms with medication or other conservative measures. If your symptoms are persistent and severe, however, you may benefit from one of the many different surgical procedures.
If you need surgery for trigeminal neuralgia, you should find an NJ neurosurgeon who treats facial pain. So how do you find a top-rated NJ neurosurgeon to treat your to trigeminal neuralgia? What qualities should you look for in a neurosurgeon?
What is Trigeminal Neuralgia?
Trigeminal neuralgia is a condition that affects the 5th cranial nerve, called the trigeminal nerve. This nerve has three branches that provide your brain with sensory information from you face.
There is one branch of the nerve that provides motor function. When this nerve becomes irritated, it can cause painful symptoms in your face. You have 2 trigeminal nerves – one on each side of your face.
Symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia typically include:
- Electric-like shocks of pain in your eye, cheek or jaw
- Burning and tingling sensations in your face
- Ear, teeth or nasal pain
- Jaw spasms
Your symptoms may range from mild to severe, and they may only be present episodically or constantly.
Typically there are specific triggers that cause an “attack” of trigeminal neuralgia. These may include lightly brushing against your face, brushing your teeth, shaving or excessive chewing.
It is important to monitor your symptoms and how they behave, as this can help you doctor make the right diagnosis for your condition and can help you choose the best treatment for your trigeminal neuralgia.
Treatment for Trigeminal Neuralgia
Treatment for trigeminal neuralgia typically starts with pain medication. Your doctor may prescribe medicine that helps to control nerve transmissions in your trigeminal nerve, or an anti-spasmodic medication may be used to control your symptoms.
While these drugs may be helpful, patients often build up a tolerance for them and may require increased dosages to get the best benefit from them.
Many patients who have trigeminal neuralgia benefit from surgery to help definitively treat their pain. There are many different types of surgical procedures available.
Surgery for trigeminal neuralgia includes:
- Microvascular decompression: Microvascular decompression is a type of brain surgery where your doctor inserts a small Teflon pad between your trigeminal nerve and its neighboring artery. This helps to take pressure off your nerve to relieve your pain.
- Gamma Knife Radiosurgery: Gamma Knife Radiosurgery is a procedure where multiple beams of radiation are focused on your trigeminal nerve, slightly damaging the nerve to lessen the transmission of signals from your face to your brain.
- Percutaneous rhizotomy: This procedure involves your neurosurgeon using a small needle and wire to heat the area around your trigeminal nerve. This slightly damages your nerve, decreasing painful transmissions from you face to your brain.
- Pain stimulator placement: Pain stimulator placement is a procedure where a small electrode is surgically implanted near your trigeminal nerve. This electrode provides electrical stimulation and helps to lessen the sensations of pain from your face.
Different risks and benefits are associated with each of these surgical procedures. A top-rated NJ neurosurgeon should be able to explain to you these risks and benefits associated with each procedure and help you make the best choice for your condition.
Qualities of a Top NJ Neurosurgeon for Trigeminal Neuralgia
There are different qualities that you should look for in a top-rated NJ neurosurgeon for your trigeminal neuralgia.
Every patient is different, so some qualities may be really important to you; others may not carry as much weight when searching for an NJ neurosurgeon. It is important to find the best doctor for you.
Many doctors can perform surgery for trigeminal neuralgia, but research shows that neurosurgeons with more experience treating a specific condition – such as trigeminal neuralgia – may achieve better outcomes with their patients.
Look for an NJ neurosurgeon who treats facial pain disorders for your treatment.
Training and education
Not every doctor is the same, and not every medical school offers the same level of training. When searching for a top-rated doctor for your trigeminal neuralgia, look for one that has been trained at a highly rated medical school.
Your doctor should also have completed specific neurosurgical training in facial pain disorders. If you are not sure about your doctor’s training, you can simply ask. Finding out about your doctor’s level of training is also easy with a simple internet search.
Professional training is important, but your doctor should also be an educator in his or her field. Does your doctor engage in research or other educational pursuits within the profession? If so, he or she is likely a leader in the field.
When meeting with a doctor for the first time, it doesn’t take long to determine if you are being rushed into and out of the exam room. Does your doctor have a pleasant bedside manner? Does he or she help you feel at ease?
Your doctor, and his/her staff, should take the time to listen to your questions and concerns about trigeminal neuralgia surgery and answer any questions you may have. Alternatives and benefits for surgery should be discussed as well.
You should feel like your doctor is working with you in a therapeutic alliance to help properly treat your facial pain symptoms.
If you feel rushed or pressured into surgery, perhaps it is time to find a different neurosurgeon for your trigeminal neuralgia.
Finding a top-rated NJ neurosurgeon to treat your facial pain and trigeminal neuralgia can be a difficult thing to do. You may have to meet with several doctors before finding the best one.