Hemifacial spasms are involuntary contractions or spasms of the muscles on one side of the face. The following HealthHearty article provides information on the symptoms of this condition.
Hemifacial spasm is a neuromuscular disorder, where involuntary contractions of the muscles on one side of the face are observed. Beginning with involuntary twitching that occurs around one eye, the twitching may affect the muscles around the mouth and neck. In rare cases, both sides of the face might be affected. Under such circumstances, the mouth could be clamped shut, thereby making it difficult to eat, swallow, or even talk. Involuntary closure of the eye could also lead to the temporary obstruction of vision.
The primary symptoms include involuntary, painless, and intermittent contractions of the facial muscles on one side. These spasms can be limited to the upper or lower half of the face only. Intermittent eye twitching is usually the first symptom that might be experienced by the affected individual. This eye twitching may force the eyelids to close, thus causing temporary vision problems. Gradually, the muscles of the lower face may also get involved, thereby causing the mouth to be pulled to one side. Finally, the spasms spread to all the muscles on one side of the face. Twitching may even be present during sleep.
This condition could occur in the event of an injury to the facial nerve. The most common cause is the irritation of the seventh cranial nerve. Twitching could occur when the root entry zone of the facial nerve at the brain stem is compressed by a blood vessel or a tumor. It might be observed in people affected by Bell’s Palsy. It has been observed that middle-aged or elderly women are more susceptible.
The doctor may analyze the patient’s medical history and conduct a physical examination. If one suspects hemifacial spasm, then an electromyogram (EMG) is carried out. The blood vessel that presses the facial nerve is too small to be able to be detected by a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CAT scan), and even angiography. However, these tests help rule out the possibility of a tumor.
The treatment might involve the use of drugs such as carbamazepine, gabapentin, baclofen, clonazepam, or diazepam. The use of botulinum toxin or botox injections might also prove beneficial. These injections need to be taken several times in a year. In some cases, the doctor may advise microvascular decompression surgery, which involves surgically opening the skull to insert a sponge between the nerve at the base of the brain stem and the vessel compressing the nerve. This helps to relieve the pressure on the facial nerve.
It has been observed that the twitching of the facial muscles increases with stress and fatigue. Problems can arise when the frequency and severity of the muscle spasms increases, thereby affecting one’s ability to perform routine activities.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.