Diagnosis and Evaluation
The cranial nerves are 12 pairs of nerves that emerge from the brain, as opposed to the spinal cord. Cranial nerves provide motor and sensory functions. These cranial nerves are among the most delicate nerves in the human nervous system and require surgeons who specialize in their normal and abnormal presentations.
Cranial nerve disorders can cause symptoms that include intense pain, vertigo, hearing loss, weakness or paralysis. Cranial nerve issues can affect a motor nerve, called cranial nerve palsy, or affect a sensory nerve, causing pain or diminished sensation.
The cause of cranial nerve damage is sometimes unknown. Other times, cranial nerve disorders are caused as a result of a brain tumor, abscess, multiple sclerosis, bleeding into and around the brain, or infections.
Trigeminal Nerve and Trigeminal Neuralgia
One of the twelve pairs of nerves, the trigeminal nerve, is a large nerve that carries sensation from the face to the brain. Pain associated with the trigeminal nerve can be severe and intense, and usually affects one side of the face.
This condition is known as trigeminal neuralgia, or Tic Douloureaux, and can be caused when blood vessels press on the root of the trigeminal nerve, a tumor, or multiple sclerosis. Classic trigeminal neuralgia is initially treated the same as atypical facial pain (e.g. medications). If medications fail, however, then classic trigeminal neuralgia can be treated with neurosurgical intervention.
Hemifacial spasm is a neurological disorder in which blood vessels constrict the seventh cranial nerve, causing muscles on one side of the face to twitch involuntarily. Hemifacial spasm can be caused by several factors: facial nerve injury, a blood vessel touching a facial nerve, or a tumor.
The Penn Center for Cranial Nerve Disorders provides the most advanced options to diagnose and treat all types of cranial nerve disorders – including trigeminal neuralgia and hemifacial spasms.
A thorough neurological examination, including various testing options, can be preformed to properly identify and diagnose a cranial nerve disorder.