Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Your doctor will diagnose trigeminal neuralgia mainly based on your description of the pain, including:

  • Type. Pain related to trigeminal neuralgia is sudden, shock-like and brief.
  • Location. The parts of your face that are affected by pain will tell your doctor if the trigeminal nerve is involved.
  • Triggers. Trigeminal neuralgia-related pain usually is brought on by light stimulation of your cheeks, such as from eating, talking or even encountering a cool breeze.

Your doctor may conduct many tests to diagnose trigeminal neuralgia and determine underlying causes for your condition, including:

  • A neurological examination. Touching and examining parts of your face can help your doctor determine exactly where the pain is occurring and — if you appear to have trigeminal neuralgia — which branches of the trigeminal nerve may be affected. Your doctor also may conduct reflex tests to determine if your symptoms are caused by a compressed nerve, or if another condition is causing your symptoms.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Your doctor may order an MRI scan of your head to determine if multiple sclerosis or a tumor is causing trigeminal neuralgia. Sometimes your doctor may inject a dye into a blood vessel to view the arteries and veins and highlight blood flow (magnetic resonance angiogram).

Your facial pain may be caused by many different conditions, so an accurate diagnosis is important. Your doctor may order additional tests to rule out other conditions.

Aug. 10, 2012

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