New Delhi, 23rd  May 2024: The pain of Trigeminal Neuralgia is so intense that it is often called the “suicide disease”, as it can lead one to contemplate suicide.

Dr Vivek Loomba,

According to Dr Vivek Loomba, Consultant Pain Physician at the Indian Spinal Injuries Centre, New Delhi, “Trigeminal neuralgia, also known as tic douloureux, induces intense facial pain on either side of the face. The pain is nearly constant and so severe that routine tasks such as washing, touching the face, or chewing become challenging.”

When 70-year-old Devi (name changed) from Mizoram and 50-year-old Tania (name changed) from Thailand came to meet Dr. Vivek Loomba, they were having excruciating facial pain. Both of them had stopped eating solid food because of the intense pain. As a result of decreased oral intake, Devi had lost almost 4kg in a month. Both of them were diagnosed with a painful, chronic condition called TRIGEMINAL NEURALGIA- THE “SUICIDE DISEASE”.

Throwing light on the treatment of these patients, Dr Vivek Loomba said, “After clinical examination, MRI of the brain was done to look for any intracranial abnormalities. In most cases, MRI is normal, and these patients were no different. They had been taking painkillers and other medications for a long time. So after discussion with patients and their families, we decided to go ahead with the interventional procedure”.

Based on his evaluation, Dr Loomba recommended a trigeminal nerve block for Tania and radiofrequency ablation of the trigeminal nerve for Devi.

For this procedure, a needle is inserted from the affected side of the face until it reaches the specific nerve to be blocked. The procedure is performed under X-ray visualization to ensure accurate needle placement. A local anesthetic and steroid mixture is injected for the nerve block. However, during radiofrequency ablation, small electric impulses are delivered to destroy the sensory nerve fibers, resulting in pain relief. These procedures typically provide effective relief lasting 1 to 1.5 years, and sometimes even longer. If the pain recurs, the procedure can be repeated.

According to Devi, “I was suffering from facial pain for almost 6 months. It made my life terrible because I was barely able to eat, speak to my family or even live a normal life. The pain was so severe and intense that it felt like electric shocks and even painkillers were ineffective”.

Dr. Vivek Loomba further added, “Trigeminal neuralgia can affect individuals of any age, but it occurs more frequently in women aged 50 and above. This condition significantly impacts a patient’s life both physically and mentally. It is also associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders.”

Bollywood star Salman Khan also suffered from this painful facial nerve disorder for almost 7 yrs and underwent treatment in the US. When he opened up about his problem, he mentioned that at one point he himself felt suicidal.

According to Tania, “I came all the way from Thailand to India to meet Dr. Vivek Loomba because I was not getting any relief from the medications I was taking. Due to the pain, I stopped going to the office and interacting with my family and friends. But I am grateful to Dr. Vivek Loomba that he saved my life by treating this chronic pain condition”.