Hemifacial spasm, as the name suggests, is a medical condition that affect one half of the face. It begins as a twitch around one eye that gradually involves the mouth. Even though hemifacial spasm is not a life-threatening condition, it can affect one’s everyday life.
Hemifacial spasm refers to a sudden, involuntary contraction of either a muscle or a group of muscles. In this medical condition, the different muscles of the face are all controlled by the facial nerve; each side of the face has a facial nerve. This nerve is responsible for carrying signals from the brain to the face so that they can contract and relax. It is the facial nerve that lets you blink, pout the lips and twitch the nose. If something presses on the nerve along the course, it can easily affect how signals get carried to the face. This may make the muscles twitch or contract or go into a spasm involuntarily or when you do not want them to.
Hemifacial spasm is a rare medical condition. In the UK alone, there are only about 4000 people suffering from this disease. It affects both men and women, though women are at a higher risk of contracting the disease compared with men. The symptoms of the disease start in middle age.
What really causes hemifacial spasm is not clearly understood. As of now, doctors believe that the main cause for it is pressure on the facial nerve from an abnormality inside the brain. What researchers have most commonly found to be a reason for hemifacial spasm is the pressing of a blood vessel at the base of the brain. There are other, rare causes of hemifacial spasm that include strokes and infections. When there is no obvious cause, the doctors call it an idiopathic hemifacial spasm.
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