HYDERABAD: One might pass off facial pain as a temporary or minor irritation, but there is more to it, as sometimes it might even lead to suicidal tendencies!
Facial pain, often to referred as Trigeminal Neuralgia in medical terminology, is caused when the trigeminal nerve faces stress or damage. The crucial nerve carries reflexes from face to brain.
Trigeminal nerve is the fifth cranial nerve, which emerges in the brain and is responsible for sensory reaction. It has three divisions - opthalmic, maxillary and mandibular - and is located exactly beside a blood vessel. Conflict between trigeminal nerve and the blood vessel results in facial pain, said Dr Syed Ameer Basha, consultant neurosurgeon at the Care Hospital, Hyderabad.
Normally, nerves and blood vessels co-exist in harmony but problems arise, when neurovascular conflict occurs. Facial pain which occurs in phases may last for two to 20 minutes. Even simple activities like brushing the teeth, drinking cold liquids or being exposed to cool breeze may cause pain.
Though a rare problem, neurosurgeons say that about 10 per cent of patients with neuro-related problems suffer from either mild or severe facial pain. “Sometimes, the pain will be so severe that patients will not even be able to brush their teeth or eat. They will go even to the extent of contemplating suicide,” said Dr Ameer Basha.
Facial pain can be treated either by medication or surgery. Carbamazepine medicine is administered in most of the countries for treating this pain. But doctors point out that medication is useful for only some time and pain will recur after six to eight months. Therefore, neurosurgeons suggest surgery for complete cure. Microvascular decompression (MVD) surgery is also suggested for treating facial pain.
“In microvascular decompression surgery, a small hole is made behind the ear and the trigeminal nerve and the blood vessel are separated. After separating the nerve and the vessel, a teflon pad is placed between them to avoid conflict in future,” explained Dr Praveen Ankati, neurosurgeon at the Global Hospital.
Though there are some other types of surgeries, MCD is regarded as the best on as in 90 per cent of cases, it has been found to cure facial pain completely.
But patients might face some side-effects like impact on hearing ability or facial numbness but it is essentially a simple micro neurosurgery, said Dr Basha.
■ Facial pain is a serious neurological problem
■ 10 per cent of people with neurological problems complain of facial pain
■ Conflict between facial nerve and blood vessel causes facial pain
■ Microvascular decompression (MVD) surgery is the best option
■ Medication may at best reduce the pain for eight months