For more than a year, Surujdai Kalladeen suffered excruciating pain in her face that would render her unable to work or do anything for long stretches of time. After seeking help from several doctors, including a neurologist who prescribed anti-seizure medication, she was exhausted from the side effects.
Researching her symptoms, her son, Mark, thought she might be suffering from trigeminal neuralgia, a chronic pain condition that affects the trigeminal, or fifth cranial nerve, which provides sensation in the face and powers motor functions such as biting and chewing.
“My youngest son was in college and he looked it up and saw that it’s sometimes called ‘suicidal pain syndrome’ because it’s so bad. It’s like you go crazy,” said Kalladeen, a Hillside resident. “It’s hard to explain it, but the feeling is, ‘I don’t want to live like this.’
The pain is caused by a blood vessel that pinches the trigeminal nerve, and as the blood vessel pulsates with every heartbeat, so does the pain. It occurs in about 12 per 100,000 people a year, mostly over age 50, though it can occur at any age. It’s more common in women than men.
“Someone with this pain experiences a stabbing, electric shock in the face. There’s really no good long-term relief with medication,” said Dr. James K. Liu, director of the Center for Skull Base and Pituitary Surgery, Rutgers Neurological Institute of New Jersey at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.
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