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:
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.
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.
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.
Moebius Syndrome Foundation
P.O. Box 147
Pilot Grove, MO 65276
March of Dimes
1275 Mamaroneck Avenue
White Plains, NY 10605
Tel: 914-997-4488; 888-MODIMES (663-4637)
Children's Craniofacial Association
13140 Coit Road
Dallas, TX 75240
Tel: 800-535-3643; 214-570-9099
National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)
55 Kenosia Avenue
Danbury, CT 06810
Tel: 203-744-0100; Voice Mail: 800-999-NORD (6673)
Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892
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Last Modified June 23, 2011