Facial pain diagnosis

Older man speaking to doctor about facial pain.

​There are many causes for facial pain, such as direct trauma or infections, however many people develop severe pain in the face without an obvious reason. Sometimes this pain can be so intense that it feels like “electric shocks” radiate across the face. Unfortunately, some patients feel these shocks often and sometimes many times an hour. This is called trigeminal neuralgia, named after the trigeminal nerve that carries pain sensation along the face and scalp. Fortunately, trigeminal neuralgia can often be effectively treated.

There is no single diagnostic test to determine if trigeminal neuralgia (TN) is the cause of facial pain. And because some symptoms of TN are similar to those of other conditions, accurate diagnosis can be difficult. Neurosurgeons at The Christ Hospital Health Network use advanced diagnostic technologies to find the cause of facial pain, including trigeminal neuralgia.

Diagnosing conditions that cause facial pain

Our experienced neurosurgery team will review your medical history and symptoms, and conduct a thorough physical exam that may include:

  • Blood test—to analyze elements in your blood.

  • Neurological exam—to eliminate other neurological disorders. 

  • Computed tomography (CT) imaging scan—a series of X-ray views taken from many different angles.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)— to help diagnose trigeminal neuralgia, we use a high-resolution MRI FIESTA (Fast Imaging Employing Steady-state Acquisition), which allows us to see whether a blood vessel is pressing on the trigeminal nerve.

  • Response to drug therapy—to help determine if you have trigeminal neuralgia, we may prescribe anti-seizure medicines for a short time to see if they relieve your symptoms. 

Get more information about facial pain care at The Christ Hospital Health Network.