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NINDS Hemifacial Spasm Information Page


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What is Hemifacial Spasm?

Hemifacial spasm is a neuromuscular disorder characterized by frequent involuntary contractions (spasms) of the muscles on one side (hemi-) of the face (facial). The disorder occurs in both men and women, although it more frequently affects middle-aged or elderly women. It is much more common in the Asian population.  The first symptom is usually an intermittent twitching of the eyelid muscle that can lead to forced closure of the eye. The spasm may then gradually spread to involve the muscles of the lower face, which may cause the mouth to be pulled to one side. Eventually the spasms involve all of the muscles on one side of the face almost continuously. The condition may be caused by a facial nerve injury, or a tumor, or it may have no apparent cause. Rarely, doctors see individuals with spasm on both sides of the face.  Most often hemifacial spasm is caused by a blood vessel pressing on the facial nerve at the place where it exits the brainstem.

Is there any treatment?

Surgical treatment in the form of microvascular decompression, which relieves pressure on the facial nerve, will relieve hemifacial spasm in many cases.  This intervention has significant potential side-effects, so risks and benefits have to be carefully balanced.  Other treatments include injections of botulinum toxin into the affected areas, which is the most effective therapy and the only one used in most cases.  Drug therapy is generally not effective.

What is the prognosis?

The prognosis for an individual with hemifacial spasm depends on the treatment and their response.  Some individuals will become relatively free from symptoms with injection therapy.  Some may require surgery.  In most cases, a balance can be achieved, with tolerable residual symptoms.

What research is being done?

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) conducts and supports research related to hemifacial spams through grants to major research institutions across the country.  Much of this research focuses on better ways to prevent, treat, and ultimately cure neurological disorders, such as hemifacial spasm. 

NIH Patient Recruitment for Hemifacial Spasm Clinical Trials

Organizations

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Benign Essential Blepharospasm Research Foundation
637 North 7th Street Suite 102
P.O. Box 12468
Beaumont, TX   77726-2468
bebrf@blepharospasm.org
http://www.blepharospasm.org
Tel: 409-832-0788
Fax: 409-832-0890

National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)
55 Kenosia Avenue
Danbury, CT   06810
orphan@rarediseases.org
http://www.rarediseases.org
Tel: 203-744-0100 Voice Mail 800-999-NORD (6673)
Fax: 203-798-2291



Prepared by:
Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892



NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient's medical history.

All NINDS-prepared information is in the public domain and may be freely copied. Credit to the NINDS or the NIH is appreciated.

Last updated October 11, 2011