Hemifacial spasm is a frustrating and sometimes painful condition involving the facial nerve which controls your ability to smile, blink and look symmetric.
Diagnosis and treatment for the condition can be difficult as the condition is rare. Often times, hemifacial spasm starts as an infrequent flutter of one eyelid.
As the disease progresses, however, the classic pulling of the mouth and forced closure of the eye are almost diagnostic of hemifacial spasm.
If you are experiencing hemifacial spasm, you should visit your doctor right away to get an accurate diagnosis and to start treating your condition. Various treatments for hemifacial spasm include:
- Botox injections to the muscles of the face.
- Microvascular decompression surgery (MVD)
When hemifacial spasm limits your ability to be around other people, work safely or enjoy a normal life, you owe it to yourself to learn everything you can about your condition. What are the symptoms of hemifacial spasm? Who treats hemifacial spasm in your area? Which neurosurgeons successfully perform hemifacial spasm surgery, called microvascular decompression, in New Jersey?
By learning all you can about your condition, you can be sure to find the right doctor to definitively treat your hemifacial spasm.
Hemifacial Spasm Symptoms
Hemifacial spasm can be a confusing and difficult condition to treat. The symptoms seem to come on for no apparent reason, and the pain and spasm can prevent you from concentrating on your normal work and recreational activities.
Symptoms of hemifacial spasm due to facial nerve compression may include:
- Twitching of one eyelid
- Excessive tearing in one eye or difficulty keeping one eye open
- Muscular spasm or twitching along your jaw or side of your face
- Spasm extending along the side of your face from your eye to your ear or jaw
- Hearing changes or a feeling of fullness in your ear
Eyelid twitching is a common symptom that many people experience that may not be a sign of hemifacial spasm. Regardless, if you are experiencing twitching or pulling and excessive tears in one eye, you should check in with your doctor to get an accurate diagnosis of your condition.
Unlike trigeminal neuralgia, hemifacial spasm symptoms can possibly continue when you are trying to sleep. Facial pulling, tightness and spasm can make sleeping very difficult
Other activities, like eating, working or enjoying family time can be very uncomfortable. Therefore, if you are experiencing any symptoms that indicate you may have hemifacial spasm, you need to visit your doctor right away to find the right physician to treat your condition.
More often than not, Botox injections into the muscles of the face can help treat hemifacial spasm. Unfortunately, patients often become dissatisfied with these injections and/or the injections fail to provide adequate control of the spasms over time. If or when Botox fails, microvascular decompression surgery should be discussed, as it is often the definitive treatment for hemifacial spasm.
Hemifacial Spasm Surgery: A Closer Look
Hemifacial spasm is often caused by malposition of an artery near the facial nerve that exits your brain stem and travels to your face. The artery can press upon the nerve, causing muscular spasm to your eye, face or jaw.
Surgery for hemifacial spasm is called a microvascular decompression and is performed by a specially trained neurosurgeon. The surgery can be performed at an NJ hospital that specializes in brain surgery and has the capability to perform intraoperative neurophysiologic monitoring. Patients are under general anesthesia during the surgery.
Microvascular decompression surgery for hemifacial spasm involves many steps. Your doctor will discuss the surgery in detail with you so you understand what to expect. Generally, the surgical steps include:
- A small incision will be made just behind your ear.
- An opening will be made in the skull behind your ear.
- Specialized surgical tools will be used to visualize your facial nerve and the artery near the nerve.
- The artery pressing against your nerve will be carefully lifted, and a small pad will be placed between the artery and nerve.
- Surgical tools are then removed and your incision will be closed.
Hemifacial spasm surgery is performed in an NJ hospital, and you will likely need to stay there two or three nights after your surgical procedure. Most patients enjoy rapid recovery from the surgery, and most often, facial spasms resolve immediately.
In a few patients, symptoms may take a bit longer to resolve, and sometimes the facial spasm or tics slowly go away weeks to months after microvascular decompression surgery.
After your surgery, you will follow up with your neurosurgeon at regular intervals to ensure that you are recovering well from the procedure. Be sure to tell your doctor about any concerns or problems that you may be experiencing after your surgery.
The Top Neurosurgeons to Perform Hemifacial Spasm Surgery
Finding a neurosurgeon in NJ who treats hemifacial spasm can be difficult since the condition is so rare and the training for the surgery is so specialized. When seeking a doctor to perform your surgery, you should look for specific qualities to ensure that you have the best possible experience and outcome with your hemifacial spasm surgery.
Most patients who experience facial spasm start their treatment with their primary care physician. Your primary doctor can then refer you to a facial spasm specialist, usually a neurologist, to treat your condition with Botox injections.
If those treatments fail to give you relief, your primary care physician or neurologist are a good resource to direct you to a top neurosurgeon who successfully and safely performs hemifacial spasm microvascular decompression surgery.
Obviously, top neurosurgeons who treat hemifacial spasm are required to have specific training in microvascular decompression surgery. But what qualities separate the good surgeons from the best surgeons in NJ who perform hemifacial surgery?
First and foremost, your neurosurgeon should practice with a patient-centered approach to care. The relationship you have with your surgeon should feel like a therapeutic alliance — both you and your doctor are working to solve your hemifacial spasm problem.
Your surgeon should take time to speak with you about your condition, and he or she should answer your questions and concerns about the surgery. Before your procedure, you should feel confident that your surgeon has your best interests in mind and is performing the right surgery for your condition.
After your procedure, your doctor should be available to answer questions about your surgery and about the course of your recovery. He or she should make sure that you are healing properly and that your hemifacial spasm has been treated appropriately.
The relationship you have with your doctor — one of trust and compassion — can make your hemifacial spasm surgery a positive experience with a favorable outcome.
Hemifacial spasm can be a difficult condition to treat. The symptoms can prevent you from enjoying your normal day-to-day activities or work duties. Although treatment with medication or injections may be successful, surgical decompression of the nerve may be necessary to fully resolve your symptoms.
Finding the right neurosurgeon in NJ to treat your hemifacial spasm is an important step to managing your condition and protecting your quality of life. A doctor who is compassionate and caring and who understands how your condition affects your life is your best choice to effectively manage your hemifacial spasm.