Involuntary muscle spasms are unwanted anywhere on our bodies. But while irritating involuntary muscle spasms such as jittery legs are nothing more than an annoyance, other conditions such as hemifacial spasms can start as an annoyance and become more serious, even to the extent of closing off the vision in one eye.
What are hemifacial spasms?
Hemifacial spasm is a condition where involuntary muscle spasms affect one side of the face. The can begin innocuously as an occasional twitching in an eyelid or on the cheek. But as they become stronger, the spasms can end up closing an eye on that side. They can also spread down the face, causing the mouth to contort. If left untreated, every muscle on one side of the face may start to exhibit increasingly frequent spasms. The condition affects men and women equally, usually developing in middle age.
What are the causes?
Although all of the causes of hemifacial spasms are not fully understood, it is thought the most common cause is excessive pressure on a facial nerve where it exits the brainstem. A tumor in the same region can also be the cause. In some cases, no obvious cause is evident.
Symptoms of hemifacial spasms
This condition often develops gradually. Initially, the muscles surrounding the eye may be affected by muscle spasms. The spasms may then spread to other muscles on the same side of the face, particularly those muscles around the jaw and mouth. At the time of the spasm, the patient may hear a clicking sound in the ear of the affected side. Hemifacial spasms affect only one side of the face, more often the left side.
Treating hemifacial spasms
There is no cure for hemifacial spasms, but at Texas Neurosurgery we use botulinum toxin injections (a common brand name is Botox) to block the nerve signals in the muscles causing the spasms. Since the muscles don’t receive the messages to contract, they don’t and the spasms go away. For about three quarters of our patients suffering from hemifacial spasms, botulinum toxin injections make the condition manageable. Our expertise, which is crucial for correctly targeting the precise muscles involved, is important for successful management. These injections are repeated every three to four months as the body eventually absorbs the eventually inert toxin and the spasms can begin again.
If botulinum toxin injections are not effective, we can use a surgical procedure known as microvascular decompression to alleviate pressure on the nerve exiting the brainstem.
Do you have symptoms of hemifacial spasms? Call the team at Texas Neurosurgery, 214-823-2052, and let’s get a handle on it.