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Trigeminal Neuralgia

Trigeminal neuralgia is a nerve disorder that causes sudden, brief episodes of severe stabbing or electric shock-like pain in parts of the face.

The pain comes from the trigeminal nerve, the major sensory nerve of the face. This nerve is responsible for sending impulses of touch, pain, pressure and temperature to the brain from the face, jaw, gums and tongue. Trigeminal neuralgia is usually caused by the compression of the trigeminal nerve by an artery or a vein, but it can also occur with no apparent cause. It is often misdiagnosed as a dental or jaw problem.

This condition can be extremely distressing for patients. Once correctly diagnosed, there are several medical and surgical treatment options that may reduce or relieve this debilitating pain.

Our Approach to Trigeminal Neuralgia

UCSF provides highly specialized, world-class care for trigeminal neuralgia. Treatment plans start with medications to control nerve pain but may include surgery if medications prove to be ineffective. We also offer non-invasive Gamma Knife radiosurgery and a technique called radiofrequency lesioning. Both are used to cause targeted damage to the trigeminal nerve, stopping the transmission of pain signals.

For patients whose severe facial pain has not been diagnosed, our team offers expertise in determining whether the pain is caused by trigeminal neuralgia or another disorder.

Awards & recognition

  • usnews-neurology

    Among the top hospitals in the nation

  • usnews-neurology

    Best in California and No. 2 in the nation for neurology & neurosurgery

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.