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What is a Hemifacial Spasm?

A hemifacial spasm is a neurological condition where involuntary contractions cause twitching on one side of the face. These spasms can be mild or severe, often starting around the eye and progressing to the lower face. Imagine a relentless, uncontrollable tic disrupting daily life. Intrigued by what triggers these spasms and how they're treated? Discover the underlying causes and therapeutic options ahead.
D. Jeffress
D. Jeffress

A hemifacial spasm is an uncontrollable contraction or twitch in the muscles on one side of a person's face. It is considered a neuromuscular disorder that can arise from facial trauma, compressed nerves, cancer, or an underlying disease such as multiple sclerosis. A hemifacial spasm typically begins in an isolated area, such as the eyelid, and spreads across one side of the face over time if it is not treated. Doctors can prescribe muscle relaxants, inject muscles with botulinum toxin, or conduct invasive surgery to relieve pressure on facial nerves. Individuals who receive treatment are usually relieved of some or all of their symptoms immediately, though many patients require ongoing treatment to suppress recurrent spasms.

Most instances of hemifacial spasms arise when blood vessels become pressed against facial nerves. This can both affect the functionality of a nerve and cause it to involuntarily contract sporadically. A hemifacial spasm can happen to anyone, though they are most common in elderly citizens and those who have suffered an injury to their face, head, or brain stem. Occasionally, a tumor can compress the facial nerve and lead to spasms. Individuals with certain neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis are also prone to twitches and tics that may or may not be limited to the face.

Hemiacial spasms can arise from facial trauma.
Hemiacial spasms can arise from facial trauma.

A hemifacial spasm generally begins in one single muscle, most often the eyelid. It can cause irregular twitching and force the eye closed unpredictably. In time, it can spread down the face, eventually affecting the muscles that control mouth movement. Many people who suffer from progressed hemifacial spasms suffer from frequent tics that significantly impair their speech and sight.

A hemifacial spasm may be caused by an underlying condition like multiple sclerosis.
A hemifacial spasm may be caused by an underlying condition like multiple sclerosis.

It is usually easy for a trained doctor to recognize a hemifacial spasm, though it may be more difficult to diagnose the cause. A physician may use a magnetic resonance imaging machine to check for tumors or other visible abnormalities, and an electromyogram to uncover other neurological problems. An electromyogram is a small, precision needle that is inserted into a facial muscle to record electrical activity and identify irregular spasms.

If hemifacial spasms are debilitating, a patient may need to undergo a microvascular decompression to relieve pressure on the facial nerve.
If hemifacial spasms are debilitating, a patient may need to undergo a microvascular decompression to relieve pressure on the facial nerve.

Treatment for a recurring hemifacial spasm may take the form of prescription oral medication, botulinum toxin injections, or surgery. Individuals with mild or infrequent spasms may benefit from taking muscle relaxants, though doctors caution against long-term use of these potentially addicting medications. Most individuals receive local injections of botulinum toxin to effectively paralyze muscles for a period of up to eight months. If medications and injections are ineffective, or spasms are severely debilitating, a patient may need to undergo a surgical procedure known as microvascular decompression to move blood vessels and relieve pressure on the facial nerve.

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    • Hemiacial spasms can arise from facial trauma.
      By: Alen-D
      Hemiacial spasms can arise from facial trauma.
    • A hemifacial spasm may be caused by an underlying condition like multiple sclerosis.
      By: designua
      A hemifacial spasm may be caused by an underlying condition like multiple sclerosis.
    • If hemifacial spasms are debilitating, a patient may need to undergo a microvascular decompression to relieve pressure on the facial nerve.
      By: aceshot
      If hemifacial spasms are debilitating, a patient may need to undergo a microvascular decompression to relieve pressure on the facial nerve.
    • An MRI may be use to check for tumors or other abnormalities that may be causing hemifacial spasms.
      By: jovannig
      An MRI may be use to check for tumors or other abnormalities that may be causing hemifacial spasms.
    • Prescription oral medications are the main form of treatment for a hemifacial spasm.
      By: Scott Griessel
      Prescription oral medications are the main form of treatment for a hemifacial spasm.
    • Hemifacial spasm is an uncontrollable twitch in the muscles on one side of a person's face.
      By: Igor Mojzes
      Hemifacial spasm is an uncontrollable twitch in the muscles on one side of a person's face.
    • Hemifacial spams are common among the elderly, and can result in speech or sight impairment.
      By: gwimages
      Hemifacial spams are common among the elderly, and can result in speech or sight impairment.