There are many potential causes of facial paralysis. It can affect both young and old. It can affect the entire face or only a portion. Below is a glance at some of the more common causes of facial paralysis. Dr. Panossian is a world-renowned expert in the field and has advanced some of the modern techniques used in correcting facial paralysis. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.
As the most commonly diagnosed reason for facial paralysis, Bell’s palsy continues to affect approximately 1 in 5000 individuals in the USA. Fortunately, most cases resolve on their own. However, in approximately one third of individuals, there may be some lasting form of facial paralysis, weakness, or spasticity, called synkinesis.
Facial Nerve Trauma
Any time of injury to the path of the facial nerve can cause facial paralysis or weakness. The nerve can be cut or bruised. Treatment is usually recommended as soon as possible to maximize recovery. In some cases, waiting for nerve recovery may be indicated. Every case is treated differently, but early establishment of facial movement is the goal.
Acoustic Neuroma & Other Tumors
An acoustic neuroma is a nerve sheath tumor arising from the 8th cranial nerve responsible for hearing and balance. Although usually a benign tumor, enlargement can cause compression of the nearby facial nerve, resulting in facial paralysis. Other tumors along the path of the facial nerve can also cause paralysis. Early treatment is key.
This is a unique condition that occurs when the human body is developing in the womb. Absence of the facial and abducens nerves are the hallmark of this condition. There is currently no direct genetic link to the condition, and most individuals are otherwise healthy. Muscle transfer is the mainstay of treatment.
Children born with underdevelopment of half of their face may have an absence or partial development of the facial nerve. The resulting appearance is a structurally smaller half of the face along with either partial or complete facial paralysis. Nerve and/or muscle transfers are usually indicated, beginning at 5 years of age.
A stroke results in blockage or disruption of the blood flow to specific areas of the brain. It is often associated with some type of motor dysfunction, slurring of speech, cognitive problems, and facial drooping. In many instances, although symptoms may improve, facial paralysis persists, causing lasting facial distortion.
Ramsay Hunt Syndrome
The herpes zoster virus, responsible for shingles and chicken pox, can affect the facial nerve, causing paralysis and a painful rash. The rash occurs characteristically over the ear on the affected side. In many instances, the symptoms are treated promptly with antiviral medications and supportive care. Facial paralysis may resemble Bell’s palsy in many ways.
Following a bout of Bell’s palsy or during the recovery phase of facial nerve trauma, re-innervation of the 7th cranial nerve can result in miswiring and cross-innervation between the various branches of the facial nerve. This can cause uncontrollable twitching and spasticity of the facial muscles, which can be quite vexing.