Facial Nerve Disorders


Learn more about facial nerve disorders and what causes them.

A facial nerve disorder can be caused by infection, trauma, tumor, or neurological conditions. There are many different forms of facial nerve disorders, but ultimately the symptoms are very similar. There are three common facial nerve disorders caused by infection:

  • Bell’s palsy (most common) caused by the herpes simplex (cold sore virus)
  • Ramsay Hunt syndrome caused by the varicella zoster (chicken pox virus)
  • Lyme’s disease caused by a tick born bacteria

Bell’s Palsy

The cause of Bell’s palsy is linked to viral infections that causes cold sores.

The symptoms of Bell’s palsy are weakness or total paralysis on one side of your face, facial droop, drooling, pain around your jaw or ear, increased sensitivity to sound on the affected side, headache, loss of ability to taste, and change in saliva or tear production.

While most people affected by Bell’s palsy fully recover without any medical assistance, treatment is more likely to improve outcome. Treatment is given with steroid and anti-viral pills.

Ramsay Hunt Syndrome

Ramsay Hunt syndrome is caused when the shingles virus effects the facial nerve near one of your ears, causing partial facial paralysis. The most common symptoms of Ramsay Hunt Syndrome are a rash with blisters around your ear and facial paralysis to one side of your face.

Medications are commonly used to treat Ramsay Hunt syndrome and reduce the risk of any permanent damage. A physician may prescribe antiviral medications to combat the chickenpox virus, corticosteroids to boost the effects of the antivirus, anti-anxiety medications to relieve any vertigo, and pain medications to reduce any pain associated with the syndrome.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is a facial nerve disorder which is contracted by being bitten by a deer tick infected by the disease. The early symptoms of Lyme disease include a rash and flu like symptoms. Later symptoms, if left untreated, include an erythema migrans rash, joint pain and neurological problems. The treatment for Lyme disease is antibiotics. Oral antibiotics are given to those with Lyme disease that has not yet affected the central nervous system. Intravenous antibiotics are given to those with Lyme disease that has affected the central nervous system.

Trauma or Injury Based Disorders

A trauma or injury based facial nerve disorder can be caused by trauma to the head or face, or during a surgical procedure on your head, skull base, or face.

A traumatic injury to your head or face is the most common cause of severe permanent facial paralysis. Symptoms for trauma induced nerve paralysis are the inability to blink or close the affected eye, difficulty making facial expressions, difficulty chewing food or drinking, and difficulty speaking. Treatments can include medications to reduce the swelling from the trauma, facial nerve decompression surgery to relieve the pressure on the affected nerve, and eye drops to keep the affected eye lubricated.

Skull Base Tumors – A tumor in the base of the skull can place pressure on the facial nerve and cause facial paralysis. The symptoms for skull base tumors are much like the symptoms for trauma based facial disorders. Surgery can be completed to remove the tumor and relieve the pressure on the facial nerve, though the nerve may never recover. Dr. Djalilian subspecializes in the treatment of the facial nerve and works with a team of other specialists in neurology, and neurosurgery to find the best treatment for patients with facial nerve disorders.