How Is Trigeminal Neuralgia Diagnosed?
Trigeminal neuralgia is a chronic condition that causes extreme pain in the facial area. This condition affects the trigeminal nerve, which is one of 12 pairs of nerves attached directly to the brain. This nerve consists of three branches that control sensations between the brain and the upper, middle, and lower portions of the face. While there is no one known cause of trigeminal neuralgia (TN), it is usually caused by physical damage to the trigeminal nerve. But because this condition is so rare, diagnosis and treatment may take a long time. Often, people suffering from this pain must go through several false diagnoses.
Let’s take a look at the diagnosis journey someone with TN may experience.
A Trigeminal Neuralgia Diagnosis
The first step in moving towards a trigeminal neuralgia diagnosis is talking about the symptoms the patient is experiencing. When someone has TN, they will experience sharp spasms in their facial area. And these spurts of pain can be triggered by the simplest things, like:
- Putting on makeup
- Brushing your teeth
- Touching your face
The pain spasms can last anywhere from a few seconds or minutes to a series of attacks that lasts weeks or months.
Because there is no single test to diagnose trigeminal neuralgia, doctors generally start by looking at the type and location of the pain the patient is experiencing. If the pain is shock-like and brief and affects the area of the face that involves the trigeminal nerve, then doctors may consider a trigeminal neuralgia diagnosis.
The Tests Used To Diagnose Trigeminal Neuralgia
There are tests to help diagnose TN and even move towards understanding the cause of the condition. Generally, the two main types of tests done when TN is suspected is a neurological examination and an MRI. These tests can help determine if the trigeminal nerve is affected and therefore causing the pain. The MRI specifically can help doctors see if there is a tumor or other damage that may be causing the pain.
Once a trigeminal neuralgia diagnosis has been made, then it’s time to explore trigeminal neuralgia treatment options. Nerve pain can be complex to treat and each patient may have a different treatment path. Aside from surgery and medication, there are more effective and less intrusive treatment options, like ultrasound therapy, that can be extremely beneficial.
All in all, the road to reaching a TN diagnosis can be long and frustrating. But with the right medical help and a treatment plan, TN patients can be on their way to significantly reducing their pain.