The facial nerve innervates the muscles of the face which we use to control movement of our forehead, eyes, mouth, and neck. There is a facial nerve on each side of the face to control the associated facial muscles of expression.
When damage to the facial nerve occurs, control of the associated facial muscles is impaired or lost completely. Depending on the area of the damage, its effect will vary. Common symptoms of facial nerve damage are:
- Weakness of facial muscles
- Inability to show expression (smile, frown)
- Dryness or excessive tearing of the eye or drooling of the mouth
Causes of facial nerve damage are varied and can be the result of any of the following:
- Infection – Bell’s palsy, Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, Lyme disease
- Trauma – facial injury, skull base fracture, birth trauma
- Bell’s palsy –This is the most common cause of facial paralysis, accounting for about 70% of all cases.
- Metabolic – diabetes (high blood sugar), hypertension (high blood pressure)
Facial Nerve Damage Treatment
Treatment for facial nerve damage will vary according to the cause and timing of the damage. For acute Bell’s palsy occurring within 2 weeks, treatment with steroid medications is highly recommended, such as prednisone. Additionally, antiviral medication, such as valacyclovir is given to enhance recovery. Surgical treatment may involve facial nerve decompression.
A comprehensive approach is necessary to balance the face. Depending on the site, extent and timing of the injury, a nerve graft may be used to ‘plug into’ a branch of the normal facial nerve or neighboring nerve and ‘borrow’ electrical input.
If there is no viable muscle on the affected side, we may transfer muscle from another part of the body to provide movement to the face. A muscle commonly used is the gracilis muscle from the leg.
Contact our office today to schedule an appointment for you or a family member with one of our specialists.