Facial Nerve Disorders
A disorder in facial movement can have devastating effects on how a person interacts with other people. But did you know it can lead to trouble with eating, nasal breathing, and speech? It can even lead to blindness. The facial nerve and muscles serve very important functions in our very basic everyday functions. Muscle tone and movement in our cheeks and lips play a major role in moving food in our mouths and shaping sounds for speech. This same muscle function helps to keep our nostrils open for breathing. Perhaps most importantly our facial nerve and muscle function closes our eyelids, cleaning, lubricating and protecting our eyes.
With regard to facial expression, our faces are largely how we are perceived by others. Although we have conscious control over facial expression, much of facial expression is mimetic and subconscious. We can consciously smile for a photograph, but when we are happy, we just smile without thinking about it. This mimetic function becomes important when discussing rehabilitation for facial nerve dysfunction.
Facial nerve dysfunction can be caused by a birth defect, trauma, infection, tumor or unknown causes. Initially, the cause of the dysfunction should be determined if possible. Any treatable conditions should be managed. The degree of dysfunction can be on a spectrum from complete paralysis to minor weakness and minimal facial expression asymmetry. Functional deficits such as speech/eating problems and incomplete eye closure are noted as well. Identifying the cause and degree of nerve dysfunction can give some guidance about prognosis for spontaneous recovery and direct rehabilitative efforts that might need only be temporary.