Causes and Diagnoses

Causes and Diagnoses of Trigeminal Neuralgia

Trigeminal neuralgia is usually caused by a blood vessel pressing against the trigeminal nerve. In some patients, it can be caused by multiple sclerosis or, more rarely, a tumor.

The physicians throughout the Northwestern Medicine neuromodulation and functional neurosurgery centers diagnose trigeminal neuralgia using a variety of tests, such as:

  • Physical exam
  • Neurological exam—to check vision, hearing, coordination, balance and reflexes
  • Blood tests, including tests for blood sugar and Lyme disease
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scans
  • Electromyography—a recording of the electrical activity of muscle tissue

Diagnostic Tests