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What Is Hypomimia?

Hypomimia, often associated with Parkinson's disease, is a reduced expressiveness of the face, commonly known as "masked facies." It's a subtle yet impactful symptom where the usual animation and emotional signaling through facial movements are diminished. This can affect social interactions and communication. To understand how hypomimia touches lives and what can be done, let's explore its implications further. How might it change someone's daily experience?
Debra Barnhart
Debra Barnhart

Hypomimia is a clinical term for a loss of facial expression. Decreased mobility in the muscles of the face is the major symptom of this disorder. Often associated with Parkinson’s disease, it can be caused by several different diseases and conditions. Treatments for hypomimia vary based on the origin of the condition.

From the Greek words hypo meaning "less" and mimia meaning "imitation," hippomimia is a condition that affects the facial muscles. Those suffering from this condition have difficulty mobilizing the facial muscles to form expressions, and they can appear to lack animation. Hypomimia can produce a blank facial expression with a static mouth and unblinking eyes. Some describe the face of a person suffering from this condition to be mask-like, and for this reason the condition is also referred to as facial masking. Hypomimia can be caused by some underlying disease or genetic disorder, though there can also be psychiatric causes for facial masking.

Hypomimia is often associated with Parkinson's disease.
Hypomimia is often associated with Parkinson's disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a common source of hypomimia. This condition is a motor system disorder triggered by a reduction in brain cells that produce dopamine. A shortage of dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter, hinders muscle movement in the face. Other symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include rigidity and stiffness of limbs, tremors, slow movement and poor balance.

Hypomimia affects the facial muscles.
Hypomimia affects the facial muscles.

Schwartz Jampel syndrome can also produce hypomimia. This genetic disorder affects skeletal muscles and can cause frozen muscles and joints as well as delayed development. Some forms of dementia, in particular Lewy Body Dementia (LBD), can also result in facial masking. LBD usually occurs in those 65 years and older and results in impaired thinking and behavior. Even though they are considered separate diseases, some experts think there is a connection between LBD and Parkinson’s.

Some patients with Lewy Body dementia.
Some patients with Lewy Body dementia.

Hypomimia can be triggered by severe mental illness. For example, people suffering from acute depression can exhibit a mask-like expression. The Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS) is used by mental health professionals to measure a patient’s level of mental abnormality. One section on the BPRS focuses on the degree of animation in facial expression, gestures and voice.

A person suffering from hypomimia may have difficulty moving their facial muscles to form expressions.
A person suffering from hypomimia may have difficulty moving their facial muscles to form expressions.

Treatment for hypomimia varies based on its cause. Parkinson’s patients are often given a combination of drugs that increases dopamine levels in the brain. Although they are not a cure for the disease, these drugs can markedly reduce the symptoms of Parkinson’s. Patients with a mental disease can often be treated with an appropriate medication that relieves other major symptoms in addition to facial masking.

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Discussion Comments

burcidi

I have social anxiety and my doctor says that I have some issues with my facial expressions. I hope it will get better with treatment.

donasmrs

@feruze-- That's a good question. I'm not a doctor but I think that loss of facial expression, whatever the cause, can be labeled as hypomimia.

It's usually more commonly seen with neurological and psychological disorders. But it's the symptoms that define the medical term, not the cause.

My cousin has Asperger's syndrome and he suffers from this. It's very difficult for him because people who are unaware of his condition think that he is not interested in whatever he is doing. It can look very bad during job interviews and in classrooms. People don't realize that it's his condition that's preventing from having expressions.

bear78

Some people lose facial mobility and expression due to cosmetic surgery and treatments. Can this be categorized as hypomimia?

There are some celebrities suffering from his because of facial fillers and various cosmetic operations. They can't move their face muscles at all. It looks very bad. I can't believe people would do this to themselves, especially actors because mimics and expressions are so important in acting.

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    • Hypomimia is often associated with Parkinson's disease.
      By: marilyn barbone
      Hypomimia is often associated with Parkinson's disease.
    • Hypomimia affects the facial muscles.
      By: nerthuz
      Hypomimia affects the facial muscles.
    • Some patients with Lewy Body dementia.
      By: riccardo bruni
      Some patients with Lewy Body dementia.
    • A person suffering from hypomimia may have difficulty moving their facial muscles to form expressions.
      By: Igor Mojzes
      A person suffering from hypomimia may have difficulty moving their facial muscles to form expressions.
    • Parkinson's, a common source of hypomimia, is triggered by a reduction in brain cells that produce dopamine.
      By: designua
      Parkinson's, a common source of hypomimia, is triggered by a reduction in brain cells that produce dopamine.
    • A patient with hypomimia may have a face that appears mask-like.
      By: Syda Productions
      A patient with hypomimia may have a face that appears mask-like.
    • Stiffness of the limbs may be a symptom of Parkinson's.
      By: lightwavemedia
      Stiffness of the limbs may be a symptom of Parkinson's.