A neurosurgeon can correct the problem by physically moving the blood vessel and holding it in place. Relieved of contact with the blood vessel, the nerve can replace its insulating myelin and the condition is reversed.
Also, and even before surgery, doctors will prescribe medications. Anti-seizure drugs, often used to treat epilepsy, can help prevent the nerve short-circuiting.
But some patients don’t appear to respond to drugs or surgery and can have many multiple attacks per day. While the pain might not be the same bolt that drops a patient to the knees, its unrelenting nature can be even more psychologically damaging.
Shanks remembers her first attack at the age of 23. Shopping in a drug store, the shock of pain slammed her in the left side of her forehead. She fell to her knees, scattering all the items from her basket.
It took many years for her to be properly diagnosed. Many patients with trigeminal neuralgia end up getting teeth pulled by mistake.
Since her diagnosis, Shanks has undergone two operations without success. One even left her with disabling vertigo.
Shanks said the drugs have not proven helpful and she is now on a variety of pain medications.