Trigeminal neuralgia — what is this relatively unknown ailment?

Unlike ancient treatments like burning the nerve through the skin, today’s treatments start with medicine and, if the condition worsens, advances to surgery.

Medications can help ease the pain, but they can become less effective over time or cause side effects such as grogginess and tiredness, which is why many patients choose surgery.

In the right patient, neurosurgeons can separate the nerve from the compressive artery by inserting a tiny pillow of Teflon under a microscope. Or they can thread a small needle along the lining of a person’s cheek, behind the back teeth and to the base of the skull, where they compress the nerve with a small balloon. A last option involves radiation to numb the nerve.

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