"It felt like someone was touching a socket, or live wire, to my facial area," Abe Gruenwald, told Action News.
"You know how scary. It's like ripping your eye or stabbing it. It's scary. Just swallowing my salvia, it triggers, and it goes through my eyes. If I move my head, it will trigger my eyes. If I raise my hand, it triggers," Merelia, a Trigeminal Neuralgia Patient said.
You can imagine the pain Merelia experienced. She spent years trying to figure out what was happening to her. For two years, off and on, sharp pains stabbed Merelia's face, until finally; she was diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia.
"Trigeminal neuralgia is a short circuit in the trigeminal nerve. The trigeminal nerve is a sensation nerve that carries sensation from the face into the brain," Robert Goodman, M.D., a chairman of the department of neurosurgery at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York, explained.
One hundred and forty thousand nerve fibers make up the trigeminal nerve. Most of them send normal messages to the brain, like when something touches your face, but many of those fibers only send pain messages. Each nerve is insulated, but when that insulation is damaged, the pain nerves can be activated.
"So, all the sudden, they'll send a lot of messages, a burst of messages, and the brain will think unnecessary," Abe said.
Abe's medical mystery ended when he found St. Lukes-Roosevelt Hospital neurosurgeon Robert Goodman.
there's something painful happening in the face," Dr. Goodman said.
That's what happened to Abe. He was misdiagnosed by doctors and dentists for seven years.
"I was on a medical odyssey. He did three root canals, all "The idea is to actually cure trigeminal neuralgia," Dr. Goodman explained. "The idea is to cure it with micro vascular decompression surgery."
To the right of the nerve is the basilar artery, which is pushing on it and causing the pain. Doctor Goodman made a small opening in the bone behind the ear and was able to move the artery and blood vessels away from the nerve. He inserted a shredded Teflon felt and sponge material that prevents it from touching the nerve, giving it a cushion, so it can't press against it again.
"Now, it's laying flatter, straighter. So, that really solved the problem," Dr. Goodman said.
Merelia had the surgery two days before, and now?
"After the surgery, I woke up and no pain," Merelia said.
For 90 percent of other patients, it's a cure.
"I've had zero pain or episodes since then," Merelia stated.
The first line of treatment for trigeminal neuralgia is medication. Radiation can also be used to target the nerve to shrink it, but the surgery is the only way to cure it.
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