What is Tic Douloureux? Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Tic douloureux, also known as trigeminal neuralgia, is a chronic pain condition.

  • Symptoms include stabbing, electric pain in response to normal activities like chewing.
  • Diagnosis is made by a specialist based on symptoms. There are no tests for tic douloureux.
  • Treatment options include medication, surgery and Gamma Knife radiosurgery.

Understanding Your Tic Douloureux

Tic douloureux is a chronic pain condition that affects the face. This pain can be so severe that the condition has been referred to as the “suicide disease.” The good news is doctors have come to better understand the condition, and there are specialists in the NJ area who can provide treatment to help give you relief from your pain.

Learning more about your tic douloureux is a powerful way to set your mind at ease, wherever you are in the process. To help you develop your understanding, the following information will discuss tic douloureux symptoms, the diagnosis process and what treatment options are available to patients in the tri-state area. This will help you in your discussion with your own doctor, who will help relate what you learn here to your individual condition.

What is Tic Douloureux: Symptoms and Causes

If there is one symptom that is associated with tic douloureux, it is pain. However, there are some characteristics of the pain associated with tic douloureux that are unique. Doctors now understand more about the underlying cause of tic douloureux, and a brief explanation may help your symptoms make more sense.

Though rare cases of tic douloureux do not have an obvious underlying cause, it is now known that the most frequent etiology is a blood vessel near the brain pressing on the trigeminal nerve. This is the nerve that transmits information about touch from the face to the brain, including pain. Sometimes another structure, such as a tumor, could be the culprit, but the common factor is something impinges on the trigeminal nerve, resulting in it firing inappropriately.

Think of the trigeminal nerve as being hyperactive as a result of the impingement, transmitting pain signals to the brain when it should not be. This leads to the characteristic tic douloureux symptoms, including:

  • Episodes of pain that can be described as “electrical” and “stabbing,” lasting seconds to minutes and increasing with time
  • Pain in response to non-painful activities, such as speaking, eating and brushing your teeth
  • Pain on one side of the face, which can be debilitating

What is Tic Douloureux: Diagnosis

Unfortunately, there is no test available to screen for tic douloureux. Instead, your doctor will form a diagnosis based on the symptoms you are experiencing and by ruling out other conditions. This is why it is important to find a specialist in northern NJ who has experience in diagnosing and treating tic douloureux. He or she will work with you to discuss your specific symptoms to confirm your diagnosis. Diagnostic imaging can also be helpful to determine the underlying cause, such as a blood vessel or tumor.

What is Tic Douloureux: Treatment

Your doctor will develop a treatment plan based on your individual condition and the cause of your tic douloureux, considering the underlying cause and your personal health factors. Potential treatment options include medication, surgery and Gamma Knife radiosurgery.


Your doctor may recommend medication to help relieve your tic douloureux pain and prevent the onset of attacks. Classes of medications include tricyclic antidepressants, muscle relaxers and anti-seizure medications. These medications may help provide relief until you are able to undergo other treatment or if you are unable to undergo surgery. However, medications may lose effectiveness over time.


If your tic douloureux is caused by a tumor, a neurosurgeon may be able to remove the tumor to resolve your symptoms. However, the more common cause is impingement of a small blood vessel of the brain, which can be treated using a procedure called microvascular decompression. During this treatment, the neurosurgeon can remove or relocate the offending blood vessel to remove the impingement and restore proper function to the trigeminal nerve.

Gamma Knife Radiosurgery

Gamma Knife radiosurgery is an advanced form of radiation therapy that can be used to treat an aberrant blood vessel just like surgery but without any incisions or scalpels. This can be an excellent treatment option for patients who are not surgical candidates or who prefer a minimally invasive approach. Gamma Knife radiosurgery is available to patients in northern NJ and does not require a hospital stay, has a short recovery period is an effective way to treat tic douloureux.

Work with a Tic Douloureux Specialist

As you move forward through your tic douloureux diagnosis and treatment, it is important you work with a doctor who has experience in treating your condition. He or she will be able to recognize your symptoms, will be work with you to find the underlying cause and will ultimately recommend a treatment plan based on your individual case.

Tic douloureux used to be a difficult condition to understand and treat. However, doctors and researchers have come to understand what can cause the trigeminal nerve to become overactive, leading to the pain you have been experiencing. Thankfully, patients in NJ and around the world now have treatment options available to provide relief.

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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