Facial neuropathy, or facial nerve palsy, is a nervous system disorder that is usually caused by another disease which is referred to as the primary disease. The most common primary diseases that are associated with facial neuropathy are autoimmune deficiency disorder, Lyme disease, or the presence of a tumor that affects the normal operation of the cranial nerves.
The symptoms are highly diverse from one individual to another and range from headaches, facial drooping especially of the cheeks, facial paralysis, and difficulty with muscle movements of the face.
It is common for the symptoms to present themselves on only one side of the face. In other words, the patient may have a drooping eye lid or cheek on only one side of the face. He may have difficulty with making fine motor movements on only one side of the face.
A common symptom is increased sound or sensitivity in one ear, or pain inside or behind an ear. Sometimes there is a loss of sensitivity in the taste buds, making food taste bland and without flavor. Sometimes there is stiffness in one side of the face, or perhaps one side of the face feels stretched tight to that side. Spasms of the facial muscles are also common.
Because there are so many different primary causes for facial neuropathy, there can often be a quite extensive series of tests that need to be performed in order to pinpoint the underlying cause. And unfortunately, in quite a high percentage of cases no determination can be made as to the cause.
If the primary disease can be determined and eliminated, usually the symptoms of facial neuropathy disappear on their own. For those patients to have found a diagnosis illusive, it can be a quite distressing predicament to not know what is causing their symptoms.
Treatment may involve the use of antiviral drugs as well as anti-inflammatory steroids. Ointments may be prescribed to numb facial muscles and relieve pain, and eye drops can be prescribed for inflammation and other eye problems.
Just as the symptoms and treatments for facial neuropathy are highly varied, so is the prognosis. If the underlying cause can be determined and successfully treated, the chance of successfully reducing or eliminating symptoms of neuropathy in the face are quite high.
Some people find that their symptoms go away completely while others report that their symptoms never go away. It can largely depend on how quickly the primary disease is caught and treated, and how far the damage to the facial nerves has progressed. If the damage is not extensive, nerve cells do have a limited capacity to regenerate and heal themselves.