Hemifacial Spasm

You have probably seen people who make bizarre gestures with only one side of their face or with their neck. This condition is called hemifacial spams, also known as “tics” or “tic convulsive”. These cause muscle spasms that usually involve no pain whatsoever, and they do not suppose any sort of threat at all, but they are described as being uncomfortable by the people having them. They are also said to be quite disturbing and there is a likely tendency for them to become more frequent.

Hemifacial spasms affect both sexes equally, although it is less rare in middle-aged and older women, and it’s proven to also have a larger incidence among the Asian population too.

What Are the Symptoms of Hemifacial Spasms?

Hemifacial spams are rarely noticed by others right from the start. It’s a condition that develops very gradually, and at first it does not involve more than a little twitch that is rarely noticed or regarded as notable. It usually starts with a little twitching in the eyelid muscle that comes and goes.

If this symptom goes on, it then tends to spread to some muscles on the bottom part of the face, around the jaw and the mouth to be more specific. What may be observed in this stage is an intermittent moving of the jaw bone to one or either side. People have also reported to experience some sort of snapping noise inside the ear due to the jaw movement each time a muscle spasms takes place.

Statistically, this condition is known to have predominance on the left side of the face. Also, even though it might not have sounded to worrying at first, this whole twitching can develop to the point where it may involve all or practically all of the muscles on one side of the face, and the twitching might take place constantly.

What Causes Hemifacial Spams?

Even though many claim to know what the cause of hemifacial spasms is, this condition is still not fully understoodtoday. It’s quite a bizarre one, after all. Some theories and hypothesis have been tested; however, a few have been developed that seem to fit the symptoms and most patients. Some doctors and scientists believe it to be caused by a certain pressure on the facial nerve that is being pushed after the development of an abnormal cranial bone. It can lead to the obstruction, for instance, of the anterior inferior cerebellar artery. This obstruction would cause the nerve to automatically move your facial muscles without you even noticing it. Hemifacial spams can also be caused after an injury or seizure of the facial nerve due to a blow or after a bad fall on the ground, or, as many scientists claim, by the appearance of a tumor (benign or not) or a blood vessel affecting that neural area of the brain.

These are not the only causes though. As we have said, there are still many theories to be proven. Other possible explanations include infections or strokes. Some talk of “trigeminal neuralgia” which is an irritation of the spoken cranial nerve. This cause, however, is on its turn caused by the obstruction of the nerve from a blood vessel or a tumor, both of which we already mentioned. Sometimes, in the absence of any of these causes, doctors may refer it as idiopathic hemifacial spams.

What Are the Treatments for Hemifacial Spasms?

Several treatments have been developed against this twitching condition. Here, we have listed the 3 treatments that are generally regarded by the scientific community to be best and more effective for the patient.

1. Medicines

Certain medicaments can be very helpful when hemifacial spasms are still on an early stage and are rather sporadic and insignificant. Some anti-epileptic chemicals (topiramate or carbamazepine, for example) have proven to be quite effective against this condition. However, they have also seemed to be absolutely ineffective with certain patients. The medicines mentioned work by relaxing and liberating anxiety from the muscles and by reducing nerve impulses. Other medicaments, like diazepam or clonazepam also work in the same way, as they are sedatives. However, they may make patients tired and may not generate at first any sort of response and require long-term takings.

2. Injections

There is one specific bacterium that has proven to be effective against hemifacial spasms. The Botulinum toxin, which is generally linked with botulism, or food poisoning, as it is produced by the Clostridium botulinum bacteria, is what certain patients have needed to get rid of their twitching. When used in small and controlled doses, it can relax facial muscles and liberate tension from them. It is injected directly into the facial area, and it stops the signals being sent there from the facial nerve. Effects last for months and start after a few days from the procedure. Doubled vision and baggy eyelids are possible secondary-effects to this treatment.

3. Surgery

Microvascular decompression is one of the procedures that have resulted effective for certain patients. This is basically the surgical removal of blood vessels that are compressing the facial nerve of some of the patients. Of course, this option is only possible for those of the patients who have blood vessels and not tumors compressing their facial nerve. Also they may involve some bad side-effects. That’s why surgery against hemifacial spasms is generally reserved for serious cases, where twitching and nervous tics have become severe and restricting. It is also reserved as an alternative if other methods have failed.

What Can I Do at Home to Help?

There’re some cases where simple domestic habits or techniques have had a positive effect reducing the tics or spasms. Relaxing through practices like meditation, Yoga or controlled breathing has been effective, for instance. Patients said those practices appeared to liberate their nerve from sending those signals.

Openly talking about your condition instead of hiding it and feeling bad about it may help too, and has proven to at least reduce the observable number of nervous tics. Family and friend support will not do you any bad. This sort of attitude may help you separating yourself from this condition.

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