Eye twitching is a hemifacial spasm and is also known as tic convulsive. Symptoms of this condition tend to worsen and spread to other areas of the face over time. There’s no cure for hemifacial spasms; however, medication, injections and surgery can relieve symptoms.
Symptoms of Hemifacial Spasms
Initially, intermittent eye twitching is the first symptom to display. If eye twitching doesn’t go away, it is indicative of hemifacial spasms. Over time, eye twitching worsens and facial twitching progresses to other areas of the face, such as the eyebrow, lips, chin, cheek, jaw and upper neck. As the spasms spread, you may also notice changes in your hearing, tinnitus and ear pain.
Eventually, twitches can occur continuously, resulting in complete closure of the eye and can affect the entire side of the face. Symptoms may be worse when tired, stressed or with caffeine or other stimulants.
Causes of Hemifacial Spasms
Hemifacial spasms occur when a facial nerve, known as the seventh cranial nerve, is compressed. This is usually from a nearby blood vessel pressing against the nerve. In some cases, benign head and neck tumors can also press on facial nerves. If no cause is found for the spasms, the condition is referred to as idiopathic hemifacial spasm.
Women are over 40 times more likely to develop the condition than men. Middle-aged and older women are more likely to develop hemifacial spasms. The condition is also somewhat more common in Asian people. To find the cause of the condition, an MRI, a CT scan and neurological exams can be used.
Treatments of Hemifacial Spasms
Oral medication may be able to relieve some of the symptoms; however, many patients opt for Botulinum toxin type A (Botox) injections and surgery. Botox® temporarily paralyzes the twitching muscle by blocking the nerve impulses. Injections typically last for 3-4 months and they help 85-95% of patients.
Microvascular decompression (MVD) surgery may be recommended if the cause of the twitching is found to be a blood vessel pressing against the nerve. MVD surgery involves a small part of the skull being lifted so the surgeon can place a tiny metal plate between the blood vessel and the nerve. The skull is closed with a small metal plate and screws. While MVD surgery is more invasive, it can provide immediate and permanent relief, especially for those in the early stages of the condition.
If you have facial twitching of any kind, don’t wait. Contact New York Facial Paralysis, the leading medical practice in the field of facial paralysis. Click here to schedule an appointment with a specialist or call us at (212) 371-3223.