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NINDS Moebius Syndrome Information Page

Synonym(s):   Congenital Facial Diplegia

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What is Moebius Syndrome?

Moebius syndrome is a rare birth defect caused by the absence or underdevelopment of the 6th and 7th cranial nerves, which control eye movements and facial expression. Many of the other cranial nerves may also be affected, including the 3rd, 5th, 8th, 9th, 11th and 12th. The first symptom, present at birth, is an inability to suck. Other symptoms can include: feeding, swallowing, and choking problems; excessive drooling; crossed eyes; lack of facial expression; inability to smile; eye sensitivity; motor delays; high or cleft palate; hearing problems and speech difficulties. Children with Moebius syndrome are unable to move their eyes back and forth. Decreased numbers of muscle fibers have been reported. Deformities of the tongue, jaw, and limbs, such as clubfoot and missing or webbed fingers, may also occur. As children get older, lack of facial expression and inability to smile become the dominant visible symptoms. Approximately 30 to 40 percent of children with Moebius syndrome have some degree of autism.

There are four recognized categories of Moebius syndrome:

  • Group I, characterized by small or absent brain stem nuclei that control the cranial nerves;
  • Group II, characterized by loss and degeneration of neurons in the facial peripheral nerve;
  • Group III, characterized by loss and degeneration of neurons and other brain cells, microscopic areas of damage, and hardened tissue in the brainstem nuclei, and,
  • Group IV, characterized by muscular symptoms in spite of a lack of lesions in the cranial nerve.

Is there any treatment?

There is no specific course of treatment for Moebius syndrome. Treatment is supportive and in accordance with symptoms. Infants may require feeding tubes or special bottles to maintain sufficient nutrition. Surgery may correct crossed eyes and improve limb and jaw deformities. Physical and speech therapy often improves motor skills and coordination, and leads to better control of speaking and eating abilities. Plastic reconstructive surgery may be beneficial in some individuals. Nerve and muscle transfers to the corners of the mouth have been performed to provide limited ability to smile.

What is the prognosis?

There is no cure for Moebius syndrome. In spite of the impairments that characterize the disorder, proper care and treatment give many individuals a normal life expectancy.

What research is being done?

The NINDS conducts and supports a broad range of research on neurogenetic disorders, including Moebius syndrome. The goals of these studies are to develop improved techniques to diagnose, treat, and eventually cure these disorders.

NIH Patient Recruitment for Moebius Syndrome Clinical Trials

Organizations

Column1 Column2
Moebius Syndrome Foundation
P.O. Box 147
Pilot Grove, MO   65276
vickimc@iland.net
http://www.moebiussyndrome.com
Tel: 660-834-3406

March of Dimes
1275 Mamaroneck Avenue
White Plains, NY   10605
askus@marchofdimes.com
http://www.marchofdimes.com
Tel: 914-997-4488 888-MODIMES (663-4637)
Fax: 914-428-8203

Children's Craniofacial Association
13140 Coit Road
Suite 517
Dallas, TX   75240
contactCCA@ccakids.com
http://www.ccakids.com
Tel: 800-535-3643 214-570-9099
Fax: 214-570-8811

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 June 23, 2011