Dr. Gail Rosseau discusses facial pain and the many treatment options available to patients.
Sinus infections, tooth abscesses, pinched nerves. Many things can cause facial pain. Sometimes soreness in the jaw, cheek or forehead develops due to pressure on a nerve, while other times it can appear for no apparent reason. That doesn’t lessen the extent to which it can negatively impact an individual’s physical and mental wellbeing.
The facial pain specialists at the NorthShore Neurological Institute understand the complexities of this disorder, compassionately working with patients to provide comprehensive care to relieve their pain—and get them back to their lives.
The NorthShore Neurological Institute’s multidisciplinary specialists have broad experience diagnosing and treating facial pain disorders. First, thorough neurological evaluations are conducted, combining detailed patient histories, careful examinations and reviews of previous diagnostic tests. These serve as the basis for accurate evaluations.
If our facial pain experts suspect that a tumor or multiple sclerosis is causing the pain, they may order magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain.
NorthShore’s board-certified neurologists are able to offer the latest treatments for pain relief from most cases of facial pain—from drug therapies to alternative medicine treatments like acupuncture.
For facial pain caused by trigeminal neuralgia (also known as tic douloureux), treatment options include both drug therapy and surgery. Our knowledgeable specialists work closely with Neurological Institute neurosurgeons to provide leading-edge surgical options that provide relief for this specific disorder.
Trigeminal Neuralgia Disorder
A somewhat uncommon cause of facial pain, trigeminal neuralgia affects only about 1 in 15,000 people. It causes sudden, sharp, severe facial pain, typically lasting a few seconds, which may come and go. Often described as an electric shock, the pain may be triggered by touching a certain spot on the face, by eating, talking or even swallowing.
This disorder involves the trigeminal nerve (also called the fifth cranial nerve), which transmits sensation from the forehead and face. Although there is one nerve on each side of the head, the disorder nearly always involves only one of the nerves.
One possible cause is simply pressure on the trigeminal nerve—either by a small artery or vein, or by a tumor in the back portion of the brain. However, multiple sclerosis also can cause these same symptoms. Trigeminal neuralgia appears more often in women than in men, and is rarely seen in patients under 50 years of age.
The main treatment for this disorder is drug therapy. NorthShore’s facial pain experts provide a number of pharmacological-based solutions that have been found highly effective.
In the case that patients do not respond well to drug therapy, the Neurological Institute features a particularly strong neurosurgical expertise in trigeminal neuralgia treatment. Our dedicated neurosurgeons have advanced the treatment of this disorder through scientific presentations, published papers and affiliations with national organizations focused on better understanding of the disorder.
We provide the full range of surgical procedures shown to be effective, including percutaneous rhizotomy, microvascular decompression and stereotactic radiosurgery. Tailoring care to each individual, our trained specialists select the appropriate surgical treatment that will yield the best results.
Under light anesthesia, a probe is placed into the region of the trigeminal nerve. The nerve is then treated with one of the following: radiofrequency (heating), injection of glycerol or pressure from a small balloon.
The neurosurgical team makes a small opening in the skull and inspects the trigeminal nerve for the presence of an artery or vein causing pressure. The offending blood vessel is then carefully moved away from the nerve, and a pad is placed to protect the nerve from further compression.
This surgery delivers a very highly-focused, precise dose of radiation directly to the trigeminal nerve, without damaging the surrounding structures and healthy tissue.
For More Information
Please call 877.570.7020 for more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists.