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Neurosurgery: Trigeminal Neuralgia (Face Pain): June 7, 2011

A disorder you’ve probably never heard of is one you’re not likely to forget. It used to be nicknames the Suicide Disease.

“It’s known probably to be one of the worst pains known to man.” says neurosurgoen Dr. Dean Lin with Lee Memorial Health System.

Trigeminal Neuralgia made Tina Shores’ life a living nightmare.

“I couldn't eat, I couldn't even touch my eyelashes. Couldn't wash my face for days because of the pain, you just touch it and it would just whew, its terrible,” says Shores.

The extreme facial pain was caused by a vascular compression of the fifth, or trigeminal nerve as it exits the brain.

“I happens when the nerve, as it exits the brain there is actually, usually a blood vessel, or an artery sitting on top of it,” says Dr. Lin “and it pulsates on top of it and that causes sharp, shooting electrical pain.”

>Getting the proper diagnosis can take years and it’s common for patients to go from specialist to specialist looking for answers and hoping for a solution.

“They'll see multiple doctors, they'll see multiple dentists. I've seen many patients with multiple teeth yanked out.”

The first line of treatment is medication. Tina’s case required surgery.

“The definitive surgery is not for everybody. It's where we actually go into the back of the skull, the back of the brain, and we basically put a Teflon sponge between a blood vessel in the nerve,” says Dr. Lin.

Older patients may prefer a percutaneous technique where surgeons insert a needle into the nerve and burn it rather than cutting the skull. Tina was extremely happy with her decision.

“It's a big change a 100% change I’d do it again today if I needed to.”