Hemifacial Spasm Disorder: Causes and Symptoms

Published on February 22, 2017

Hemifacial spasm disorder can be described as the involuntary painless twitching of one side of the face. It results from malfunctioning of the seventh cranial nerve, the facial nerve. This nerve is rooted deep in the brain and passes through numerous structures before reaching the face. Specific facial nerves correspond to either side of the face.

All the muscles of the face are under the control of the facial nerve. It is responsible for moving the facial muscles, stimulating the tear and salivary glands, helping the front part of the tongue in taste identification, and controlling a muscle associated with the hearing function.

While it isn’t very common, hemifacial spasm disorder is a condition that can affect both men and women, and middle-aged (or older) women are particularly at risk.

Potential Causes of Hemifacial Spasm Disorder

There isn’t any clarity on the exact cause of the hemifacial spasm disorder. The primary cause may be pressure experienced by the facial nerve. This pressure could be due to a structure or malfunction/abnormality in the brain. Most commonly, a blood vessel located at the bottom of the patient’s brain is pressing on the nerve, which causes the hemifacial spasm disorder.

Some of the other rare causes of this condition include strokes and infections. Doctors report that there might not be any obvious cause in some cases, and this is known as idiopathic hemifacial spasm.

Symptoms of Hemifacial Spasm Disorder

It is possible for hemifacial spasm disorder to develop slowly in an individual. At the onset of the condition, muscle spasms may affect the muscles around the eye. These spasms might then start spreading to the other muscles (located on the same side of your face), especially those in the mouth and jaw.

Some people suffering from the hemifacial spasm disorder have reported experiencing a sound similar to clicking whenever a muscle spasm is kicking in. This sound is heard in the ear on the affected facial side.

Hemifacial spasm disorder usually affects the left facial side rather than the right one. In the more severe cases of hemifacial spasm disorder, the contractions begin to interfere with the patient’s vision on one side.

Treatment Options

While hemifacial spasm disorder does not have a cure, symptoms can be alleviated with the help of certain treatments.

Botulinum toxin injections are often administered for weakening the spasm-affected muscles. This is perhaps the first and most common line of treatment for the hemifacial spasm disorder. A repetition of the injections may be required after every three months. Sometimes, results may not be visible, either because the dosage is incorrect or the areas haven’t been targeted accurately. At other times, a different variety of botulinum toxin may be needed. Surgery may also be helpful in alleviating symptoms.

Contact Our Office

If you feel that you may be experiencing hemifacial spasm disorder, contact our office immediately and schedule a consultation. Dr. Mirwat Sami, a board-certified ophthalmologist specializing in Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, will be available to help find a solution for you.