Minimally Invasive Treatment of Trigeminal Neuralgia

Trigeminal neuralgia is a chronic condition that causes searing facial pain in the lower face and jaw, along with the areas around the nose, eyes, lips, or ears due to nerve irritation or damage. Dr. Peter Nakaji, a board-certified neurosurgeon in Phoenix, AZ, is a pioneer in the area of minimally invasive keyhole surgery, an effective trigeminal neuralgia treatment. Our entire team is highly trained and compassionate, and we are dedicated to providing the highest standards of care.

About Trigeminal Neuralgia

The trigeminal nerve sends signals between your brain and your face, and is responsible for sensation. People suffering from trigeminal neuralgia may experience agonizing pain when performing simple tasks, such as putting on moisturizer or brushing their teeth. In severe cases, even walking against the wind can trigger pain.

Affecting more women than men, trigeminal neuralgia occurs most often in people over the age of 50. It may begin with mild, infrequent attacks. However, this condition can worsen over time, causing more chronic episodes of severe pain.

Illustration of trigeminal neuralgia effects

This chronic pain condition can cause excruciating pain from the slightest stimulation to the face.

What Causes Trigeminal Neuralgia?

Trigeminal neuralgia occurs when there is an interruption in the nerve’s function. Typically, this is caused by contact between a blood vessel and the trigeminal nerve, which is located at the base of the brain. When this occurs, it can place pressure on the nerve, resulting in malfunction. Common causes of trigeminal neuralgia include:

  • Aging
  • A tumor that compresses the trigeminal nerve
  • Multiple sclerosis, or other disorders that damage the myelin sheath
  • Brain lesions
  • Stroke
  • Facial trauma
  • Surgical injury
  • Other brain abnormalities

Symptoms of Trigeminal Neuralgia

People suffering from trigeminal neuralgia may experience a number of symptoms, which can occur alone or in combination with other patterns. Some of these include:

  • Electric shock sensations, described as shooting or jabbing pain
  • Episodes of severe pain, lasting from a few seconds to several minutes
  • Attacks triggered by touching the face, speaking, or chewing
  • A persistent burning or aching sensation
  • Focused pain in the jaw, cheek, teeth, gums, lips, eyes, or forehead
  • Pain that affects one side of the face at a time
  • Periods of no pain alternated with attacks that last days, weeks, or months
  • Attacks that become more intense and frequent

Diagnosing the Condition

During an initial consultation, Dr. Nakaji will ask you several questions regarding the nature of your discomfort, such as the type of pain, the location, and the factors that trigger it. By performing a neurological examination, Dr. Nakaji can determine which branches of the trigeminal nerve are affected. He may also test your reflexes to establish whether your symptoms are the result of a compressed nerve or another condition.

An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan may be taken, as well. This will help Dr. Nakaji determine if a brain tumor or multiple sclerosis is responsible for the development of trigeminal neuralgia.

Treatments for Trigeminal Neuralgia

Some patients find relief from their condition with medications, such as anticonvulsants, antispasmodics, or BOTOX® injections. These can often successfully reduce the pain or block the signals that are sent to your brain. Over time, however, some patients may find that the medications lose their effectiveness. In these cases, surgery is recommended.

With keyhole brain surgery, an advanced, minimally invasive technique, Dr. Nakaji is able to visualize the area with real-time video imaging, which provides unparalleled precision and accuracy.

There are several surgical options for treating trigeminal neuralgia, including microvascular decompression, radiofrequency thermal lesioning, and balloon compression. At our practice, Dr. Nakaji offers keyhole brain surgery as a minimally invasive option. During this procedure, Dr. Nakaji is able to visualize the problem area with real-time video imaging, which provides unparalleled precision and accuracy. This procedure has helped many of our patients enjoy a faster recovery with minimal downtime.

Find Relief from Your Symptoms

If you are experiencing symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia, schedule a consultation with Dr. Nakaji. We can help you find a treatment option that will address your needs and alleviate your pain. Contact us online anytime or call our office at (602) 406-4808.

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