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Moebius Syndrome

What is it?

Moebius Syndrome causes facial paralysis. Most people with the syndrome cannot close their eyes, move them from side to side, or form facial expressions. The lack of expression can be mistaken for lack of intelligence.

What causes it?

Facial and eye movement are controlled by cranial nerves, and if these nerves to not develop properly Moebius Syndrome can result. Why the nerves do not develop properly is uncertain, and since many problems can occur during pregnancy there are probably several causes. It is unlikely there is anything anyone could have done differently to prevent it.

Treatment considerations

The main goal of therapy is usually to improve speaking and eating abilities; this is usually led by speech-language pathologists along with physiotherapists and occupational therapists.

Surgery may help with crossed eyes, and it is possible to transfer part of muscles from the thigh to improve the ability to smile.

Developmental considerations

Some other symptoms may occur along with facial paralysis such as:

  • Difficulty with breathing or swallowing
  • Crossed eyes
  • Clubbed feet, missing fingers or toes
  • Chest-wall abnormalities (Poland Syndrome)
  • Corneal erosion
  • Dental problems

Looking down the road

People with Moebius Syndrome need to find ways to compensate for the lack of facial expressions; other than that many do not have any disabilities.


woman smiling with her coworkers at a meeting

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