May 20, 2009

Facial Nerve Damage

Posted in Category : Common Ailments

The facial nerve is one of twelve pairs of cranial nerves; it controls facial expressions and to some extent tastes sensations in the tongue. Cranial nerves, unlike spinal nerves, go directly from the brain stem to the concerned part of the body, without passing through the spine. The facial nerve is typically considered to be the 7th cranial nerve.

Facial nerve damage would typically mean any kind of impairment to the functioning of this nerve, no matter what the causes. The functioning of the facial nerve can be affected by trauma to the head resulting in swelling and excessive pressure on the nerve. It can also be affected by several infections, particularly infections of the middle ear. However, many other infections can also damage the facial nerve, ranging from herpes type 1 to meningitis; health conditions such as diabetes can also damage the nerve. A tumor can also damage the facial nerve by putting pressure on it. In some unfortunate cases, a surgical operation in the area through which the facial nerve passes may result in damage to the nerve, either due to negligence or due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control.

The extent of the damage varies from case to case; in some cases, facial nerve damage may result in complete paralysis of the facial muscles, while in other cases, the paralysis may only be partial. Typically, the patient is unable to make any of the normal facial movements, including raising the eyebrows, closing the eyes, moving the lips, and so on. As can be expected, this condition is extremely traumatic, both to the patient and his or her loved ones.

Treatment of facial nerve depends first upon properly identifying the cause of the damage. Various tests need to be performed, including x rays, CT scans, MRI scans, and other, more advanced tests. All the functions that could be affected by facial nerve damage need to be tested, from muscle movement to saliva production and hearing ability. The extent of the damage must also be determined, and whether or not the damage is permanent. In some cases, if the underlying cause is successfully treated, the paralysis may end and the patient may recover completely. Depending upon what the cause is, the doctor may prescribe anti inflammatory drugs, anti viral drugs, corticosteroids, or surgery, or even some other course of action. Some amount of physical therapy is also needed, and some people choose to try acupuncture too, although there is no evidence that it actually works.