Facial Nerve Disorders

While far less common than hearing (auditory) and balance (vestibular) disorders, disorders of the facial (cranial nerve VII) nerve can be serious and can have catastrophic consequences. Our specialists perform in-depth evaluations to determine the correct diagnosis in order to treat the condition. 

Symptoms and Evaluation

Signs of a facial nerve disorder include facial weakness, twitching, and paralysis of the face.

At UT Southwestern Medical Center, your physician will perform a number of tests to diagnose the condition. Tests may include a hearing test, a CT scan, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to determine if there is an infection, tumor, or fracture.

Treatment

Once your diagnosis is determined, therapy may include surgery, medical therapy, and rehabilitation. Surgical care of facial nerve disorders may include facial reanimation through primary nerve repair, static reanimation through static facial suspension, and dynamic facial reanimation through muscle transposition and/or nerve transposition.  

Medical intervention may include treatment with prescribed medicines and rest. In many cases, exercises and biofeedback are also prescribed in a rehabilitation program described below.

Rehabilitation for facial nerve disorders involves retraining the nerve and affected muscles. Facial nerve retraining is an exercise-based treatment approach using sensitive electromyography (EMG) biofeedback therapy, specific mirror exercises, and other specific training activities. These techniques are used to promote selective voluntary control of affected muscles and promote automatic facial gestures. 

Retraining procedures may involve teaching you to relax the uninvolved side of the face, training the involved side to develop slow fine motor control of selective areas, reducing inappropriate or involuntary facial movements, and participating in a home exercise program.