Learning as much as you can about your tic douloureux is an excellent way to play an active role in your health throughout the treatment process. However, it can sometimes be difficult to wade through information online and find true expert advice. That’s exactly why the top facial pain specialists in NJ have taken the time to answer some common questions patients have about their tic douloureux, including more about the condition itself, treatment options and how to find the right doctor in the northern NJ area.
What Is Tic Douloureux?
Tic douloureux, also known as trigeminal neuralgia, is a chronic pain condition characterized by bouts of excruciating pain of the face in response to non-painful stimuli, such as eating or speaking. Typically, patients also experience a constant, dull pain in the facial area that does not have any identifiable cause.
These sensations are transmitted by the trigeminal nerve, a cranial nerve responsible for transmitting touch and pain signals from the face and brain. Though doctors have historically had a difficult time understanding trigeminal neuralgia, it is now known that the most frequent cause is a blood vessel near the brain impinging on the trigeminal nerve, triggering painful sensations when there should be none.
What Treatment Options Are Available?
The first line of treatment for any patient with tic douloureux is medication. Though it is a chronic pain condition, tic douloureux (if correctly diagnosed) does not respond well to typical pain-management medication, such as opioids or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen. Instead, your doctor will likely prescribe an antiepileptic medication to try and calm the overstimulated nerve, relieving your pain and preventing episodes.
However, not all patients benefit from medications, and sometimes medications lose their effectiveness. Luckily, there are now treatment options available for patients whose tic douloureux is caused by a blood vessel, as described above. The first is microvascular decompression surgery, where a neurosurgeon accesses the area to add a buffer between the offending blood vessel and the trigeminal nerve.
Another option is Gamma Knife stereotactic radiosurgery, a relatively minimally invasive approach that avoids any surgery or hospital stay. Though it may sound like another surgical approach, Gamma Knife is actually an advanced type of radiation therapy that allows your doctor to target a highly focused area, such as the trigeminal nerve, and spare healthy surrounding tissues.
What Is Recovery Like Following Gamma Knife for Tic Douloureux?
One of the great things about Gamma Knife is it does not require a hospital stay, and most patients are able to resume normal activities within just a day or two. In contrast, traditional surgery requires a hospital stay and lengthy activity restrictions while your body recovers from the procedure. Surgery also carries certain risks, such as infection and bleeding, which are basically eliminated in a Gamma Knife procedure.
Following Gamma Knife for tic douloureux, you may experience headaches, fatigue or nausea during the first few days. Your doctor can prescribe medication to help ease your discomfort, and the symptoms tend to be mild and transient.
How Do You Find the Right Doctor?
Tic douloureux is a complicated condition that can be difficult to diagnose, which is why it is important you seek out a facial pain specialist in NJ for treatment. Additionally, you may wish to find someone who is experienced with Gamma Knife radiosurgery for tic douloureux, as it is an excellent treatment option for many patients.
One way to find a facial pain specialist in NJ is to continue your online search, looking to reviews of patients also diagnosed with tic douloureux who have undergone treatment successfully and who have been satisfied with their experiences. Another resource is to do an online search. Your search results will lead you to websites of practices who specialize in treating facial pain conditions, and you can read through their credentials and patient testimonials before scheduling a consult.
Relief Is in Sight
People who have never experienced the pain of tic douloureux may have a hard time understanding how disruptive it can be during simple daily activities. However, your diagnosis is the first step in your path to resuming a life without pain, and the fact that you are learning more about the process shows that you have a personal interest in your treatment and recovery.
The importance of seeking out someone who is experienced in managing tic douloureux, such as a facial pain specialist in NJ, cannot be stressed enough. He or she will be able to understand your condition and recommend the treatment option that is most appropriate for your individual case. Take the extra time to seek out an expert, and you will be able to rest easy knowing that your health is in good hands.