What Is Hemifacial Spasm?
Each side of your face has more than two dozen muscles that you use to chew and show emotions.
Twelve nerves (cranial nerves) send electrical signals from your brain to your upper body. Two of these nerves — the facial nerve and trigeminal nerve — control how your facial muscles move.
In hemifacial spasm, these nerves tell muscles on one side of your face to contract, or twitch, for no reason. These twitches usually don't hurt. But over time, they may happen more often.
Hemifacial spasm is a rare neurological movement disorder.
Contact the UPMC Department of Neurosurgery
UPMC neurosurgeons specialize in treating hemifacial spasm with microvascular decompression surgery. To make an appointment or talk with a neurosurgery expert:
What Causes Hemifacial Spasms?
For the most part, spasms occur when a blood vessel presses on a facial nerve. The pressure disrupts the nerve impulses that cause muscles to contract.
You may also get this issue if you:
- Injure a facial nerve.
- Have a tumor pressing on facial nerves.
- Have Bell's palsy or ear infections.
Anxiety, fatigue, or stress can also cause the muscles in your face to twitch. Rarely, hemifacial spasm starts for no clear reason.
What Are Risk Factors and Complications of Hemifacial Spasms?
Hemifacial spasm occurs when facial nerves become irritated. The issue is twice as likely to happen in women than in men.
Middle-aged women, especially those of Asian descent, get hemifacial spasm most often. The issue doesn't tend to run in families.
If not treated, hemifacial spasm symptoms may may get worse, with nearly constant twitches.
Why Choose UPMC Neurosurgery for Hemifacial Spasm Care?
UPMC specialists are experts in diagnosing and treating hemifacial spasm. We run specialized tests to detect problems with how the cranial nerves send electrical signals. UPMC surgeons have done hundreds of microvascular decompression surgeries to relieve hemifacial spasm symptoms.