Trigeminal neuralgia is one of the most painful conditions any patient can suffer and is commonly referred to as “Suicide Disease”. The condition is characterized by extreme and excruciating facial pain that can last from a few seconds to a few minutes. This pain is usually intermittent and is elicited by minimal stimulation of the face. The Trigeminal nerve (also called the fifth cranial nerve or CN5), conducts sensation in the face .
The term “Suicide Disease” is derived from the overwhelming anxiety and depression experience by many patients with Trigeminal Neuralgia. Those plagued by this condition often live in fear of daily activities that may bring on bouts of pain, including eating, shaving, talking and sleep. Those with the condition often become reclusive. Malnutrition is also common in those with Trigeminal Neuralgia as eating often triggers painful episodes.
The condition has no defined cause but several theories exist. One of the most common theories is that this condition is caused by compression by blood vessels as the nerve travels from the brain to the face.
Those with Trigeminal Neuralgia can experience signs and symptoms including:
● Intermittent bursts of extreme lightning-like, stabbing facial pain
● Onset of pain while eating, shaving, talking or brushing teeth
● Dull aching between bouts of extreme pain
● Pain triggered by light touch or wind
Traditionally, pharmacological treatment is the initial therapy. However, as the pain evolves, patients often become resistant to prescription treatments and require either surgery or radiosurgery. Surgery may involve either percutaneous nerve ablation or open nerve decompression.
Dr. Kevin Yao has particular expertise in these surgical techniques as well as in the use of Gamma Knife Radiosurgery for Trigeminal Neuralgia. Gamma Knife radiosurgery requires no surgical incision and typically incurs minimal side effects. Dr. Yao served as Co-director of the Gamma Knife Center at Tufts-New England Medical Center and has successfully treated innumerable patients afflicted by this devastating disorder.