Facial Nerve – Controlling Facial Muscles
The facial nerve is properly referred to as the Cranial Nerve VII. Cranial nerves are special control nerves either emerging from the cranium instead of the spine (those are referred to as spinal nerves). There are twelve altogether and each has their own major function. The seventh cranial nerve is the facial nerve.
Functions of the Facial Nerve
Controls Facial Expressions – the facial nerve’s primary function is to provide control over the facial muscles. The reasons why people can wrinkle their forehead, smile, and whistle are because of properly functioning facial nerves.
Facial Sensation – the facial nerve also controls about two-thirds of the tongue’s anterior, meaning it is also responsible for the brain’s capability of understanding taste.
Altogether, the cranial nerve VII or facial nerve is responsible for a person’s capability of moving their facial muscles and for some taste sensations. Without the facial nerve a person would not be able to blink, move their lips from side to side, or taste certain food.
Conditions Endangering the Facial Nerve
The facial nerve is also susceptible to health concerns, as is any part of the human body. Some are caused by physical injury while others may be caused by infection or tumors growing around the nerve. One of the most common concerns is Bell’s palsy.
Steroids, eye care, and facial rehabilitation therapy are the main treatments for this condition. Fortunately, 85% of patients fully recover.
Other Concerns for the Facial Nerve
Traumatic injuries such as a severe blow to the face and head or iatrogenic injuries during surgeries may also cause damage to the facial nerve. More often than not surgical repair is the only means of restoring facial functions.
Skull based tumors such as acoustic neuroma or tumors within the parotid gland may be pressing against the facial nerve, constricting its function. These tumors will cause facial weakness as well as other symptoms like hearing loss. Neck masses may also form.
Secondary Treatment for Facial Nerve Paralysis
Patients will also be required to wear protective glasses since they may have lost control over their eye-lids. Artificial ointments for the eyes (artificial tears) are also needed to lubricate the eyes and keep them clean.
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