It’s known as some of the worst pain you can experience; like electric shocks running across your face. The condition is called trigeminal neuralgia. Carol Gaines of Pensacola suffered with it for five years.
Carol kept her game face on, even as stabbing, shocking pains went off like firecrackers in her face and mouth. She said, “I’ve heard it called the suicide disease, and I can understand why. When I would eat, it would hurt. When I would drink, it would hurt. When the wind blew across my face, it would hurt. Putting on makeup was excruciating.”
After months of trying to deal with the most intense pain she’d ever known, Carol was diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia. It’s one of the most common causes of nerve pain, most common in people over 50, and affecting more women than men.
Sacred Heart neurosurgeon Dr. Maria Toledo pointed at a radiology image and explained, “This structure here is the trigeminal nerve.”
The pain comes when a blood vessel rubs up against the nerve, damaging its coating. The unprotected nerve is like an exposed wire. Dr. Toledo said, “They feel like they are being electrocuted in their face, or stabbed in their face.”
Dr. Toledo has done more than 150 surgeries to relieve that pain. The procedure is called “microvascular decompression.” She explained, “I make a small opening here, and I go this way, and it is a long way. Go there, reach the nerve, and separate the artery, and put a cushion between it.”
Unlike other surgeries for this condition, this procedure does not harm the nerve. Dr. Toledo says it cures 80-90% of patients.
Carol Gaines was back to work, and the church choir, in three weeks. She was scared to have brain surgery, but describes life without pain in one word: “Wonderful!”.,