Facial twitching, medically known as a hemifacial spasm, is categorized by an involuntary twitching or contraction of the facial muscles on one side of a person’s face. Your facial muscles are controlled by the facial nerve, which begins at the brainstem and exits the skull below the ear. It is a motor nerve that controls your eyebrows, mouth and lips, but if it becomes damaged or compressed, it can cause muscle spasms that lead to facial twitching. Below, we take a closer look at facial twitching, and we explain how to treat it.
Causes and Symptoms of Face Twitching
As we noted above, facial twitching is usually caused by acute injury or compression of the facial nerve, but it can also be brought on by a condition known as Bell’s palsy. The most common point for compression of the facial nerve is right near its origin in the brainstem, and the compression is often caused by the anterior inferior cerebellar artery. When the nerve is compressed, it begins to misfire, which results in facial muscle contraction.
Since facial twitching is a symptom in and of itself, there are not a lot of other symptoms that appear when the facial nerve is compressed, although some people do report mild to moderate pain. In the vast majority of cases, the spasms start close to the eye and progress down the face as time goes on. In about eight percent of cases, the facial twitching begins near the chin and progresses up towards the eye. The average age of a person who deals with this condition is 44 years old, and is more likely to be female.
Diagnosing and Treating Facial Twitching
If you’re experiencing acute or chronic facial twitching, or if the spasms are becoming more frequent, give Dr. Chang or a specialist in your area a call. He’ll begin the diagnostic process by reviewing your medical history and asking you about your symptoms. From there, he’ll conduct a physical exam that may include some manipulation exercises to see if compression triggers the spasm.
Once he has an idea of what might be causing your facial twitches, he’ll confirm his suspicions with an imaging test like an MRI, which can also rule out issues like a brain tumor or aneurysm. An electromyogram may also be conducted to study the nerve and muscle activity in your face.
If you’ve been diagnosed with a hemifacial spasm, you have a variety of treatment options available to you based on the underlying cause of the condition. Here’s a look at some treatment options:
- Medication – Muscle relaxers can help to control mild cases of hemifacial spasm, but they can cause other side effects, so patients who fit the criteria for medications are carefully monitored.
- Botox – Botox injections help to block nerve impulses that trigger muscle movement. Botox is a pretty successful treatment option, but the effects usually only last about three months, so it isn’t a great long-term option.
- Surgery – A minor surgical procedure called a microvascular decompression can relieve facial nerve compression. More than 90 percent of patients are back to their regular lifestyle within two months post-op, while about seven percent suffer a recurrence of symptoms after surgery.
If you or someone you know is dealing with uncontrollable facial twitching, don’t just power through the condition. Have it examined by a specialist like Dr. Chang, and you’ll be amazed at how easily the issue can be treated. Reach out to his clinic for more information.