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Trigeminal Neuralgia And Radio-Frequency Ablation - What Causes It?

Written and reviewed by
MD, PDCC, MBBS Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, FPCI
Pain Management Specialist, Delhi  •  7 years experience
Trigeminal Neuralgia And Radio-Frequency Ablation - What Causes It?

Trigeminal neuralgia is specified by the condition of a chronic pain that influences the trigeminal nerve. This nerve transfers sensation from one’s face to his/her brain. If a person is suffering from trigeminal neuralgia, then a gentle stimulation of face (sourced from brushing teeth or applying makeup) might generate a fright of agonizing pain. The affected person might experience short and mild attacks initially. However, the trigeminal neuralgia might progress and generate more-frequently and longer attack of severely critical pain. Women get affected by this situation more than men get and it is more prominently occur in individuals older than 50 years.

Trigeminal neuralgia does not mandatorily mean that you need to experience a lifelong pain. Various types of treatment alternatives are available and so doctors can usually handle the particular condition effectively by taking help of injections, medications or surgery. Various types of triggers might cause the pain regarding trigeminal neuralgia, such as eating, drinking, shaving, brushing teeth, touching face, smiling, washing face etc.

Symptoms

The symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia might comprise of one or more patterns and some of these are described below:

  1. Sequences of serious, jolting or shooting pain that might generate as an electric shock
  2. Spontaneous pain attacks or attacks stimulated by different activities like face touching, speaking, chewing, or brushing teeth. Pain attacks last from a few moments to some minutes.
  3. It is not a comprehensive list because Trigeminal neuralgia hosts various other symptoms as well. If a person feels facial pain, specifically recurring or prolonged pain or if the person does not get relief through the utilization over-the-counter pain relievers, then that person must consult a doctor.

How does Radiofrequency Ablation treat Trigeminal Neuralgia?
Trigeminal Neuralgia is a chronic and painful condition that involves the trigeminal nerve. There are two separate trigeminal nerves on both sides of the face, which carry the sensations like pain from the face to the body. Each nerve has three branches- forehand, midface and chin and trigeminal neuralgia can cause intense pain in any of these areas.

Causes-

  • This occurs when the trigeminal nerve functioning is disrupted. When the blood vessel/artery and the trigeminal nerve at the base of your brain come in contact, it puts pressure on the nerves and causes pain.
  • It also occurs as a result of ageing or multiple sclerosis
  • A disorder that damages the myelin sheath protecting the nerves can trigger pain
  • Sometimes pain occurs from tumors, which compresses the trigeminal nerves
  • Surgical strokes, facial trauma or strokes can also be the root cause of excruciating pain

Triggers-

  1. Shaving
  2. Touching your face
  3. Eating and drinking
  4. Putting on makeup
  5. Brushing
  6. Washing your face

Symptoms-
The pain can be mild and for a shorter duration or it can happen frequently for longer durations. Some experience the pain in cycles where it can come and go for days or even for weeks. Gradually the intensity of the pain lessens.

Cure by Radio-frequency Ablation
The treatment of trigeminal neuralgia is often a challenging process in clinical practice. When medicines do not prove as effective, surgery is the desired option.

Procedure-

  1. After applying local anaesthesia, the Pain Specialist carefully inserts a needle through the corner of your mouth to reach the trigeminal nerve
  2. The doctors then wake up the patient after stimulating the nerves and ask them to feel the stimulation at the same place where they undergo pain. This confirms their targeted location
  3. Once you fall asleep again, the Pain Specialist uses radiofrequency heat to injure the nerve enough to create numbness and removes the pain

How Effective is Radio-frequency Ablation?
The pain is cured almost in 98% of the patients. 50% of patients report recurrence of pain after about two years. Hence the procedure can be repeated in the same patient if necessary.

In case you have a concern or query you can always consult a specialist & get answers to your questions!
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