Facial Paralysis (Bell’s Palsy) / Facial Spasms

Oasis Eye Face and Skin | Ashland, Medford, Grants Pass, Oregon

A sudden facial paralysis or facial spasm is enough to cause anyone to panic. Facial paralysis and facial spasms can be caused by a number of reasons and relying on an expert to find the cause is always encouraged. It is important to find the right specialist when this happens, as not all physicians have the skill and knowledge to tackle these problems. Board-certified oculoplastic and facial surgeon Dr. Vivian Schiedler has seen many patients with facial paralysis and is conveniently located in Ashland, OR.

It is natural for patients suffering from either of these conditions to be frustrated, as either one can cause constant and uncontrollable facial behavior. This often leaves the patients feeling helpless and possibly embarrassed. It’s important to understand that even though these two disorders may be connected in some ways, they are two completely different medical conditions. This is why having an expert is crucial to diagnose and treat the symptoms properly.

What Is Facial Paralysis?

Facial paralysis is when the muscles on one or both sides of your face become weak or stop responding. Bell’s palsy is a type of facial paralysis that usually occurs suddenly when the nerve responsible for facial expressions stops working, usually due to a post-viral infection. Other causes may be a tumor pressing on the seventh cranial nerve or sometimes it can be idiopathic (meaning that no cause can be found). Muscle movement of the forehead, eyes, cheeks, mouth, and neck are affected, and therefore the patient finds it difficult to speak, blink, or smile. Diabetes, third trimester of pregnancy, and having the flu or a cold can all increase an individual’s risk of developing facial paralysis.

Symptoms of facial paralysis, including Bell’s palsy:

  • Dry eye on the affected side
  • Drooling
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Changes in taste
  • Pain around the jaw or behind the ear
  • Increased sensitivity to sound on the affected side
  • Headache
  • Long-term muscle twitching or spasms
  • Difficulty closing and blinking the eye on the affected side

Other causes of facial paralysis include:

  • Viral infections such as influenza or shingles
  • Trauma or injury to the facial nerve
  • A tumor growing along the nerve
  • Stroke
  • Autoimmune conditions
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What is a Hemifacial Spasm?

Hemifacial spasm is when the muscles on one side of your face begin to twitch. It is most often caused by a blood vessel compressing the facial motor nerve responsible for facial movements.

Other causes of hemifacial spasm include:

  • Tumor
  • Trauma
  • Stroke
  • Poor or incomplete recovery from facial paralysis or Bell’s palsy

People suffering from a hemifacial spasm may experience the following:

  • Involuntary twitching on one side of the face
  • Difficulty keeping the eye open while doing visual tasks such as reading
  • A watery eye when chewing or eating (also known as crocodile tear syndrome)

“Crocodile tear syndrome” happens when the eye on the affected side begins watering when the patient is eating. The facial nerve activates the salivary glands when we chew. However, when this nerve is working inappropriately, the signal goes to the tear gland instead and causes a sudden watery eye when chewing.

What is Blepharospasm?

Blepharospasm is a condition in which both eyes start blinking quickly and strongly, occasionally clamping shut. This is caused by abnormal brain signals that send incorrect messages to the eyelids. Severe cases of blepharospasm can be dangerous, as the eyes may shut for several seconds and make activities like driving much more difficult.

Scientists can’t fully explain the reason for this condition, but they have found that the following factors can aggravate it:

  • Fatigue
  • Stress
  • Eye irritation
  • Bright light
  • Attempts to focus vision
  • Driving through intermittent shadows

Symptoms of blepharospasm may include:

  • Increased blinking
  • Involuntary spasms of the eyelid
  • Eyelids clamping shut
  • Inability to open the eyes
  • Light sensitivity

Treatment Options for Facial Paralysis and Facial Spasms

Eye Spasms | Oasis Eye Face and Skin, Ashland, OR
MRI

Specialized tests are sometimes necessary to rule out causes of facial paralysis and hemifacial spasms. Dr. Schiedler will typically order an MRI to look for any underlying causes that would explain the symptoms. An MRI is capable of showing blood vessels that may be pressing against the facial nerve, in which case a referral to neurosurgery will be made.  A neurosurgeon can perform the Janetta procedure (microvascular decompression) to lift the artery off the nerve. Once the artery is not pressing on the nerve, a tiny sponge-like material is placed to prevent the problem from recurring. This procedure has a high success rate and cures the spasm.

Stitching the Eyelids for Protection

Patients with facial paralysis may be unable to blink or close their eye. When this happens, Dr. Schiedler may stitch the eyelids together to protect the cornea from drying out. This approach may be temporary in an effort to let the nerve recover naturally. Stable patients who have healed but still cannot close their eye may have an eyelid weight inserted into the middle layer of the upper eyelid. This weight will help the patient close their eye better throughout the blink cycle.

Eye Spasms | Oasis Eye Face and Skin, Ashland, OR
Eye Spasms | Oasis Eye Face and Skin, Ashland, OR
Botox or Xeomin Injectables

Patients who develop abnormal twitching may benefit from Botox or Xeomin injections around the eyes. These products work by weakening the muscles that are erratically twitching or clamping shut, bringing relief to the patient. Dr. Schiedler may recommend the repetition of this treatment every few months in order to get the best results.

Dr. Schiedler treats many patients with spasm disorders. Patients choose to come to Oasis Eye Face and Skin because they know that there will be minimum discomfort with these injections. Relying on a professional for these treatments decreases the odds of bruising and lets you get back to your daily activities faster. Dr. Schiedler customizes each treatment and always uses the lowest effective dose to minimize side effects such as dry eyes. She also uses several numbing techniques to help patients feel more relaxed and comfortable. All injections are performed by Dr. Schiedler personally, so patients can rest assured they are in very capable hands. She understands facial anatomy and looks at the face as a whole. This knowledge enables her to use just the right amount to achieve natural-looking and positive results.

Find Facial Paralysis and Spasm Relief with Dr. Vivian Schiedler

If you suffer from any form of facial paralysis or spasms, know you aren’t alone. Most importantly, you can rest assured that Oasis Eye Face and Skin, located in Ashland, OR, can help. Dr. Vivian Schiedler uses her precise skills and knowledge as an ophthalmologist and oculofacial plastic surgeon to diagnose and treat these debilitating and frustrating conditions. This helps you regain control over your facial expressions and achieve improved eye comfort. Don’t live with this condition any longer. Call 541-500-0165 today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Schiedler!

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