Hemifacial spasms are uncontrollable muscle movements (spasms) on only one part (hemi) of the face (facial). Sometimes the words doctors use seem very complicated, but when you break each part down, you get a better understanding of what they are saying. Several nerves supply your face. The nerves of the face originate in the brain.
Hemifacial spasms affect both men and women equally. It is a problem with one of the cranial nerves. Sometimes there are disruptions in the nerve which causes spasms or tics. There are many different sources for the problem. Symptoms are very evident and at times can be both annoying and embarrassing. Once you notice symptoms, the first step is to see a neurologist for a diagnosis and treatment.
There are many nerves in the face, but the primary cause of hemifacial spasms is the seventh cranial nerve. That nerve, in particular, comes out of the brain stem. This nerve controls all facial expressions. We may not realize how many different facial expressions we make in a day. Without nerves, it would be impossible to make any expressions at all. The cranial nerve is associated with taste buds. Branches of the nerve reach into the head and neck. With the nerve controlling so many things, you can see how having damage to it will affect you. In most cases, cranial nerve damage affects facial expressions more than anything.
Hemifacial spasms do not cause pain, but the uncontrollable facial spasms are enough. Most of the time, the symptoms start out very mild. There will be a twitch in the muscle of the eye. You may blink uncontrollably. The spasm can then spread down into the mouth and jaw. When those muscles are affected, your face may look distorted. When the spasms start occurring more often and longer, you can start feeling distressed or embarrassed by the situation. It is not fun having facial tics. It is noticeable and not something you can just hide. While a spasm is occurring, you may hear clicking in your ear. The spasms only happen on one side of the face. Hemifacial spasms sound similar to dystonia, but it is very different in that the symptoms are not as bad, and it only happens on one side of the face.
There are no true risk factors for hemifacial spasms, but there are several causes. The good news is it is not caused by any serious issue associated with the brain. The cause is only associated with the nerve itself. The nerve becomes irritated. When that happens, spasms occur. Another common cause is abnormal artery position. The carotid artery lies next to the nerve. When the artery is slightly out of place, it puts a lot of pressure on the cranial nerve. The pressure disrupts the electrical signals of the brain. Hemifacial spasms normally occur during middle age. It rarely affects those that are young unless there has been some injury that puts pressure on the nerve and irritates the nerve.
Everyone may experience a spasm now and then, but when it is persistent and all the time you have a nerve problem. The best way to find out what is happening is to talk to a neurologist. They will first go over your symptoms. After a symptoms overviews, they may run tests. An MRI is the best method form of diagnosis. The MRI will show any structural problems and if pressure is put on the nerve or not. The doctor will also see tumors with an MRI. It is rare, but the cause of your pain could be a tumor pressing on the nerve. Once the doctor confirms your problem, treatment is next.
There are typically only two types of treatment for hemifacial spasms. The two treatment options are surgery or injections. The doctor will choose to do an injection first. When we hear about Botox, we usually think of it as a medicine for plastic surgery. Botox is shown to help many neurological issues. Botox is injected into the muscle that is undergoing the spasms. Botox is a medicine that paralyzes the muscle. When the muscle is paralyzed, it will not move at all. Other medicines are used as well, but they are not as effective. When medication does not work, surgery is next. The purpose of surgery is to take pressure off the nerve. An incision is made to the back of the neck. The doctor then removes the source of the pressure. In most cases, the artery is separated from the nerve. Once the pressure is removed, the twitching stops.
Hemifacial spasms are not serious or life-threatening, but they do have an effect on you emotionally and physically. Constant twitching does not cause any pain, but it is irritating. It brings embarrassment, and if the spasm spreads into the jaw or cheek, you cannot even hide it. When it comes to hemifacial spasms, treatment can cure the problem. Make sure to talk with a neurologist about any abnormal facial spasms. You do not have to continue with those embarrassing spasms. Get the cure you need.
FIND A TOP10MD NEUROSURGEON NEAR YOU
It’s important that you trust your Neurosurgeon. There are hundreds of Neurosurgeons to choose from; however, not all doctors are created equal. That’s why we’ve selected your city’s best Neurosurgeons – to make the decision process easier for you and your family.
For your peace of mind, Top10MD Neurosurgeons’ credentials are validated yearly to verify medical licenses have no serious patient care sanctions, current Board Certifications in their given medical specialty, current DEA & DPS licenses, and malpractice insurance. A Top10MD has at least 5+ years experience or has performed 300+ procedures in their given specialty and a current Patient Satisfaction Score of 8.5 or higher.