Trigeminal Neuralgia and MS: How Gamma Knife Can Help

If you’ve been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) you have likely experienced the symptoms that are associated with it. Most people with multiple sclerosis suffer from pain, whether neuropathic, musculoskeletal or both, which can range from mild to debilitating. While headaches, arm and leg pain, and back pain are common with MS, facial nerve pain caused by a chronic condition called trigeminal neuralgia can also be an excruciating companion to MS. Read on to learn more about trigeminal neuralgia and MS. 

What is Trigeminal Neuralgia? 

Trigeminal Neuralgia is a chronic condition where pain is felt in areas served by the trigeminal nerve, like the eye and cheek. It is commonly confused with dental pain and is sometimes referred to as the “suicide disease” because of the severity of the pain and the years that individuals often suffer without knowing the cause.

What is the connection between Trigeminal Neuralgia and MS?

Trigeminal neuralgia affects the largest nerve in the head, the fifth cranial or trigeminal nerve, which carries sensations from the face to the brain. MS is thought to damage myelin, a protective coating that wraps around these nerves. This can trigger symptoms, typically in the form of severe bursts of stabbing pain that are centered around the jaw, cheeks or eyes.

Though a relatively low number of people with MS experience trigeminal neuralgia — between four and six in every 100 people with MS —  it is still 400 times more prominent in MS patients than in the general population. Patients with trigeminal neuralgia and MS tend to be younger (mid-40s, on average), typically experience pain on both sides of the face and may have other neurological symptoms, such as dizziness or weakness/numbness in the arms or legs.

How Gamma Knife Can Help

Before Gamma Knife radiosurgery was invented, interventions to treat trigeminal neuralgia were left as a last resort because of the high risk of complications. That often meant patients had to wait till their suffering had become unbearable.

With no incisions needed, Gamma Knife is the least invasive treatment available for trigeminal neuralgia and the least likely to cause complications. Gamma Knife delivers 192 precise beams of high-dose radiation to the trigeminal nerve so pain signals can no longer be transmitted — all with minimal effect on surrounding healthy tissue. Results, measured in the degree and duration of pain relief, are typically excellent.

What’s Next

To learn more about treating trigeminal neuralgia and MS, contact the The Valley Gamma Knife Center. A Nurse Navigator will discuss your condition and help determine if this treatment is right for you.

Anthony D’Ambrosio, M.D., M.B.A., F.A.A.N.S
Anthony D’Ambrosio, M.D., M.B.A., F.A.A.N.S
Dr. Anthony D’Ambrosio is a board-certified neurosurgeon that specializes in Neurosurgery, Stereotactic Radiosurgery, Gamma Knife Radiosurgery (GKRS) and more. He is the Director of Neurosurgery and Co-Director of the Gamma Knife Program at The Valley Hospital. Dr. D’Ambrosio is an expert in treating patients with trigeminal neuralgia, benign or malignant brain tumors, as well as many other neurological conditions.

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