How to Diagnose Trigeminal Neuralgia

Source: Mayo Clinic

With Trigeminal Neuralgia being a common problem, below are details about what you need to know regarding how to diagnose Trigeminal Neuralgia.

Factors considered for diagnosis

Doctors consider the following when diagnosing trigeminal neuralgia:

  • Type: the pain is shock-like, sudden, and short. 
  • Location: knowing if the trigeminal nerve is destroyed and it’s link to the parts of the face affected by pain
  • Triggers: pain related to trigeminal neuralgia occurs when there is light stimulation of the cheeks from activities such as talking and eating. 

Tests conducted

To diagnose this nerve disorder correctly, a doctor might conduct the following tests:

  • Neurological examination: touching your face helps your doctor determine the area where the pain is occurring. It also helps to find the affected branches of the trigeminal nerve. 
  • Reflex tests: this helps to determine whether the symptoms are due to compressed nerves or some other condition.
  • MRI: An MRI is done to find out if a tumor or multiple sclerosis is responsible for trigeminal neuralgia.

Treatment options

The treatment for such a disorder starts with medication. Some people require no further treatment; however, a majority does require surgery.


Medicines are prescribed to reduce or block the pain signals that the brain receives.

  • Anticonvulsants: the most common anticonvulsant doctors prescribe is carbamazepine. It has shown to be effective for treating trigeminal neuralgia. 
  • Antispasmodic agents: muscle relaxants like baclofen is used alone and also with carbamazepine. 
  • Botox injections: studies show that Botox helps reduce pain. It is particularly recommended for those who are unaffected by medication.


The purpose of surgery for treating trigeminal neuralgia is to stop the compression of the trigeminal nerve by the blood vessel. In some cases, surgery is done to keep the nerve from malfunctioning by damaging it.

Microvascular decompression: the procedure removes or relocates blood vessels in contact with the trigeminal nerve. 

Gamma knife radiosurgery: the surgeon uses radiation for damaging the trigeminal nerve and eliminating or reducing the pain. 

Rhizotomy: this is also very common for treating trigeminal neuralgia. In rhizotomy, the nerve fibers that are responsible for facial numbness are destroyed. 

The kinds of rhizotomy are:

  • Glycerol injections: you are injected with sterile glycerol. The injection blocks the pain signals and destroys the trigeminal nerve.
  • Balloon compression: a hollow needle with a balloon attached at the end is inserted into your brain. The doctor then inflates the balloon to destroy the trigeminal nerve. Consequently, the pain signals are blocked. 
  • Radiofrequency thermal lesioning: in this procedure, selective nerves that are linked to pain are destroyed.