Hemifacial SpasmEn Español (Spanish Version)
Hemifacial spasm is a neuromuscular disorder that causes frequent involuntary contractions to occur in the muscles on one side of the face.
Hemifacial spasm is believed to be due in part to compression of the facial nerve where it meets the brainstem. The compression can be cause by:
- A blood vessel pressing on the facial nerve (most frequent cause)
- Facial nerve injury
- Bony or other abnormalities that compress the nerve
Facial Nerve Innervation
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The following factor increases your chance of developing hemifacial spasm:
- Being a middle-aged or elderly woman
- Intermittent twitching of the eyelid muscle
- Forced closure of the eye
- Spasms of the muscles of the lower face
- Mouth pulled to one side
- Continuous spasms involving all the muscles on one side of the face
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Tests may include the following:
- Electromyography (EMG)—a test that measures and records electrical activity generated in muscle at rest and in response to muscle contraction
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)—a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of structures inside the head
- Computed tomography (CT) scan—a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of structures inside the head
- Angiography—an x-ray exam of the blood vessels when they are filled with a contrast material
Hemifacial spasm is usually a chronic condition. Remission of symptoms, although possible, has only been noted to occur in less than 10% of patients.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:
Treatment with carbamazepine is often used initially, with improvement in symptoms in up to half of patients who are treated.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), patients of Asian ancestry who have a certain gene, called HLA-B*1502, and take carbamazepine are at risk for dangerous or even fatal skin reactions. If you are of Asian descent, the FDA recommends that you get tested for this gene before taking carbamazepine. If you have been taking this medication for a few months with no skin reactions, then you are at low risk of developing these reactions. Talk to your doctor before stopping this medication. *
Gabapentin and baclofen may also be beneficial for treating hemifacial spasm in some patients.
Botulinum Toxin Injections
Injecting botulinum toxin (ie, Botox) into the affected muscles can stop eyelid spasm for several months. However, these injections must be repeated, usually several times a year.
Microvascular decompression surgery, which repositions the blood vessel away from the nerve, is successful in cases of hemifacial spasm in which the cause is suspected to be a blood vessel compressing the facial nerve.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Organization for Rare Disorders
Canadian Movement Disorder Group
Hemifacial Spasm Association
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Hemifacial spasm. Chicago Institute of Neurosurgery and Neuroresearch website. Available at: http://www.cinn.org/other/hemifacial-spasm.html . Accessed February 28, 2007.
Hemifacial spasm. MedLink Neurology website. Available at: http://www.medlink.com . Accessed 4/2/2008.
Hemifacial spasm information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/hemifacial_spasm/hemifacial_spasm.htm . Accessed February 28, 2007.
*12/20/2007 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : 2007 safety alerts for drugs, biologics, medical devices, and dietary supplements: Carbamazepine (marketed as Carbatrol, Equetro, Tegretol and generics). Medwatch. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/medwatch/safety/2007/safety07.htm#carbamazepine .
Last reviewed March 2008 by J. Thomas Megerian, MD, PhD, FAAP
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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