Trigeminal Neuralgia Specialist

Joseph Watson, MD -  - Board Certified Neurosurgeon

Cerebrum MD

Joseph Watson, MD

Board Certified Neurosurgeon located in Tyson's Corner, Vienna, VA

Trigeminal neuralgia causes excruciating pain that goes through your face, often multiple times each day. If you’re experiencing this kind of facial pain, leading neurosurgeon Joseph Watson, MD, at Cerebrum MD in Northern Virginia and Greater DC area, can help. Dr. Watson is a highly experienced physician who specializes in treating conditions like trigeminal neuralgia, helping to relieve pain and significantly improve your quality of life. Call Cerebrum MD today.

Trigeminal Neuralgia Q & A

What is trigeminal neuralgia?

Trigeminal neuralgia (tic douloureux) is a condition in which you experience sudden, severe bouts of facial pain. The feeling comes from the trigeminal nerve in your face, causing burning pain or an electric shock-like sensation.

The attacks of facial pain might last a few seconds or several minutes. You could get numerous attacks of trigeminal neuralgia every day, experiencing extreme pain that goes as fast as it arrives.

Trigeminal neuralgia pain is most likely to affect your jaw, but can also involve your:

  • Teeth
  • Gums
  • Lips
  • Tongue
  • Throat 
  • Cheek
  • Ear
  • Nose
  • Eye
  • Forehead

Trigeminal neuralgia pain often worsens over time, and your attacks are likely to come more frequently and last longer. Treatments that help at first can lose their effectiveness as well.

What causes trigeminal neuralgia?

Trigeminal neuralgia develops because of a problem with the way your trigeminal nerve is working. The nerve starts to transmit pain signals to your brain when the insulating tissue protecting it deteriorates or comes under pressure. The result is flashes of disabling pain.

Reasons why the insulating tissue is deteriorating or being compressed include:

  • Pressure from an artery or vein
  • Tumor or other mass
  • Inflammatory lesions
  • Infection
  • Post-infectious injury
  • Multiple sclerosis

You might find that everyday activities trigger your trigeminal neuralgia pain, for example, brushing your teeth, talking and smiling, eating and drinking, touching your face, shaving, or washing your face.

Dr. Watson can diagnose trigeminal neuralgia from your symptoms but might advise an MRI scan to rule out other causes.

How is trigeminal neuralgia treated?

Some patients get relief from the symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia by taking anti-convulsant medications. These work by calming nerve function and reducing the likelihood that the trigeminal nerve creates pain signals. 

If these medications aren’t working for you, Dr. Watson can carry out one of several procedures:


Rhizotomy is a minimally invasive treatment that destroys the nerve fibers, preventing the trigeminal nerve from transmitting pain to your brain. Dr. Watson carries out rhizotomy using either an injection of glycerol, compression with a medical-grade balloon, or radiofrequency ablation. 


Radiosurgery involves using focused radiation treatment. Dr. Watson targets the radiation at your trigeminal nerve to reduce the nerve activity.

Microvascular decompression surgery

During microvascular decompression surgery, Dr. Watson takes out or relocates any blood vessels that are pressing on your trigeminal nerve.

If you’re experiencing severe facial pain, schedule a consultation with Dr. Watson by calling Cerebrum MD today.