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Facial Pain and Cranial Nerve Tumor Care in New Jersey

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acial pain or other symptoms experience within the anatomy of the head, such as hearing loss or visual loss could involve one of the twelve cranial nerves. These nerves can fail to properly function because of trauma, infection, entrapment, or the growth of a cranial nerve tumor.  Whether a tumor or other cause, the symptoms drastically impact one’s quality of life. With the right treatment, the problematic symptoms can be eliminated and the patient can return to a pain-free life.

Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics is comprised of expert physicians and surgeons who have served the New Jersey area for decades. Combining both the latest knowledge and experience, CNSO routinely treats facial pain, hearing loss, or visual loss caused by cranial nerve tumors. Patients can trust the medical team’s diagnosis and guidance which will be tailored specifically to their unique condition.

Causes of Facial Pain and Types Cranial Nerve Tumors

Most facial pain is not caused by a tumor nor are most headaches. Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics (CNSO) can diagnose any type of facial pain and recommend the proper treatment based on the most current medical guidelines. Below are examples, though not a complete list, of the most common causes of facial pain that are not tumor related as well as some that are:

Trigeminal Neuralgia

The trigeminal nerve is responsible for communicating sensations to the face. There is both a right and a left trigeminal nerve. When one of the trigeminal nerves becomes disrupted, it can impact the same side of the face throughout the cheek, jaw, teeth, gums, lips, eyes, or forehead.  Pain may also be experienced when touching certain areas of the face. Trigeminal neuralgia can become a chronic pain condition. Signs of trigeminal neuralgia also include difficulty completing daily activities such as:

  • Touching, washing, or shaving the face
  • Eating
  • Drinking
  • Brushing teeth
  • Talking
  • Putting on makeup
  • Smiling

Symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia can arise for a variety of reasons. This can include infection, advanced age, vascular entrapment of the trigeminal nerve, multiple sclerosis or other less common disorders. To treat trigeminal neuralgia, physicians will first prescribe certain medications that hopefully will relieve symptoms and cure the root cause medical condition.  If the symptoms do not resolve or continually persist, if imaging of the head shows entrapment of the nerve, an effective surgical correction would be to reduce and prevent pressure on the trigeminal nerve. This surgical procedure is called a Trigeminal Microvascular Decompression.  CNSO surgeons have ample experience and success with treating patients with this cause of trigeminal neuralgia.

Neurofibroma of the Head

Neurofibroma is a benign tumor that grows on the peripheral nerve. It can develop on any nerve in the body, causing bumps to form on or under the skin. Many individuals diagnosed with neurofibroma will not feel symptoms. However, if symptoms arise, it usually consists of mild pain or numbness in the area. Smaller tumors will not need treatment, just close monitoring to watch for growth or changes over time. If a tumor is large and begins to present symptoms, surgeons can remove it through surgical efforts.

Migraine Headaches

Migraine headaches are painful head pains that can occur in conjunction with many other uncomfortable symptoms, including:

  • Blurred vision
  • Facial numbness
  • Light and noise sensitivity
  • Nausea
  • Throbbing or pulsating pain
  • Vomiting

Many factors can trigger migraine headaches, including drinking alcohol, eating certain foods, weather changes, or lifestyle changes that could be causing stress or insomnia. Physicians will treat symptoms using non-surgical methods. If a patient is experiencing frequent or severe headaches, it’s important to seek treatment. There are a variety of causes of headaches. Most important is the correct diagnosis. If the headache is a migraine, there are a number of medications and lifestyle changes that will reduce or eliminate the number of migraine headaches. For difficult to treat migraines, Botox injections have proven to be very beneficial.  CNSO pain management doctors have had great success with treating migraine using Botox injections which are considered standard of care for migraine headaches that do not respond to medications.

Glossopharyngeal Neuralgia

The glossopharyngeal nerve works to control parts of the throat, tonsils, the back of the tongue, and the middle of the ear. When a person develops glossopharyngeal neuralgia, they will begin to feel a sharp pain that radiates from these areas. The symptoms may vary for each person, sometimes causing short episodes that last a few seconds to minutes or episodes that recur several times a day. This rare condition can stem from many reasons, including injuries, infections, tumors, or diseases like multiple sclerosis. Physicians can treat glossopharyngeal neuralgia using medications or if entrapped by other structures or a tumor, a CNSO surgeon can perform a surgical procedure to free the glossopharyngeal nerve and eliminate the pain.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics treats facial pain and cranial nerve tumors using many surgical and non-surgical techniques. When patients first arrive to their appointment, the physicians at Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics will seek to hear every symptom and the patient’s entire medical history as well as understand their lifestyle. The CNSO physician will then evaluate the patient’s symptoms via a physical examination while asking questions to gain more information to determine what condition the patient may have. To officially diagnose facial pain or a cranial nerve tumor, doctors may need to order additional testing such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or CT scans. This will give them a direct image of the nerves and anatomy in question, providing information like vascular anatomy, infection, tumor location and size.

Once physicians determine a diagnosis, they will create a treatment plan that works with the patient and their lifestyle. Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics utilizes many treatment methods, including:

  • Medications: CNSO physicians may prescribe medications if the diagnosis warrants a medication. Facial pain can be controlled with pain medications. Cranial nerve tumor will require treatment of the tumor. If the tumor is causing pain, the pain can be controlled with medications while the tumor is treated. Physicians can also administer prescriptions that reduce tumor size to avoid surgical efforts. For migraines, CNSO pain management doctors only treat after the patient has exhausted all medication efforts as prescribed by their neurologist or primary care doctor. In mild cases of a cluster or other type of headache, they may suggest taking over-the-counter medications to manage pain, increase fluid intake, and exercise.
  • Acupuncture and acupressure: This is an alternative form of medicine that can relieve symptoms of migraine headaches and other conditions. Acupuncture and acupressure can improve blood flow within the brain.
  • Physical therapy: Often neck muscle spasms can lead to headaches. Neck spasms can occur for a number of reasons, and it transmits to the base of the skull. Physical therapy can help patients stretch their neck muscles and gain muscle strength in their necks.
  • Trigger point injections: This is a form of non-surgical treatment that neutralizes any muscle spasm that is the source of pain. This non-invasive procedure can be performed in the office and takes 5 minutes to complete. It is a quick and easy way to find relief.
  • BOTOX injections can also lessen symptoms of migraine headaches but only indicated after medications have failed.
  • Microvascular decompression surgery: This is a method of treatment that alleviates painful facial symptoms secondary to nerve entrapment. Microvascular decompression surgery is ideal for those with trigeminal neuralgia or glossopharyngeal neuralgia. During the procedure, surgeons will place either a pad or sling on the blood vessel to move it away from the nerve. By keeping the surrounding structures off the nerve, the nerve no longer experiences pressure and this is decompressed. Within a short time thereafter, the facial pain symptoms will resolve.
  • Gamma knife surgery: This is a form of radiation therapy that can treat tumors found in the brain. Gamma knife surgery is not a traditional surgery in the way that surgeons will make an incision. Instead, they use tools to deliver radiation therapy to a smaller, more specified area. This alternative therapy administers radiation without impacting healthy brain tissue.

To learn more about the conditions and treatments offered in Northern NJ at Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics, schedule an appointment today.

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In order to provide an accurate diagnosis with the most effective treatment option for “back problems” and brain tumors, CNSO is led by neurosurgeons and orthopedic spine surgeons. Under the care of our award-winning neurosurgeons and orthopedic spine surgeons, Northern NJ patients can have the confidence that their medical condition will be handled with consideration for their comfort and long-term well-being as well as technical excellence.

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