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The trigeminal nerve connects directly to the brain and controls facial sensations, biting and chewing. When the nerve malfunctions, people experience sudden, excruciating pain. If you suffer from trigeminal neuralgia, you may dread daily tasks: brushing your teeth, putting on makeup, even eating. At UCLA, our team at the UCLA Neuromodulation for Movement Disorders and Pain Program performs a number of surgical treatments that can help you smile again without pain.

What is trigeminal neuralgia?

Trigeminal neuralgia, also known as tic douloureux, is a chronic pain condition associated with sharp facial pain. It is most common in males but relatively rare in the general population, affecting only about 4 in 100,000 people each year.

There is more than one possible cause for trigeminal neuralgia pain:

  • Pressure on the trigeminal nerve caused by a blood vessel, usually the superior cerebellar artery
  • Tumor
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Injury/damage to a nerve
  • Lack of protective insulation on the trigeminal nerve

Trigeminal neuralgia symptoms

People diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia experience intermittent shooting pain on one side of the face, coming from one or more branches of the trigeminal nerve. The pain lasts a few seconds and can be triggered by chewing, swallowing, talking or other sensory stimulation to the face.

Some patients have facial pain that lasts throughout the day. This pain pattern is considered "atypical." While these chronic symptoms can be treated with the same techniques, the outcomes are not as good.

Experts Who Treat Trigeminal Neuralgia

Surgical treatment options for trigeminal neuralgia at UCLA

The first line of treatment for trigeminal neuralgia is medication. If you suffer from severe facial pain and do not respond well to medication, your doctor may recommend surgery.

Our UCLA Neuromodulation for Movement Disorders and Pain Program offers three surgical treatments to relieve pain for patients who suffer from trigeminal neuralgia in Los Angeles.

Motor cortex stimulation and deep brain stimulation can be considered for patients with atypical, chronic pain. Both are off-label procedures for treating trigeminal neuralgia, which means they are not yet FDA-approved.

Learn more about our surgical treatment options.
Learn more about Trigeminal neuralgia.