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Moebius Syndrome

Facial paralysis is distinguishing symptom


Updated August 17, 2003

When you meet a person with Moebius syndrome, you are struck by the lack of movement on one or both sides of the person’s face. No smiles or frowns, no blinking or winking—it seems as if the person has a mask on. You learn, then, to listen to the sound of the voice and watch the expressiveness of the eyes.

Few cases worldwide
This disorder is rare—only a few hundred cases have been documented worldwide—and researchers do not yet know exactly what causes it. Because few physicians are aware of the syndrome, a child born with it may go undiagnosed for months or years.

Parents of a child born with Moebius syndrome may see that the child’s face does not move when he or she cries. The baby may also have difficulty sucking, may drool a lot, and may have crossed eyes. Other symptoms may include:

  • Deformed tongue and jaw
  • Hand or foot deformities (one third or more of cases), such as club foot or missing fingers
  • Low muscle tone, meaning the child has trouble sitting or crawling
  • Swallowing or breathing problems

Although a child with Moebius syndrome may crawl or walk later than other children, he or she eventually catches up.

Moebius syndrome does not get worse over time. Treatment is based on the symptoms:

  • Surgery to correct hand, foot, or jaw deformities
  • Special feeding device or feeding tube
  • Physical therapy for muscle problems
  • Occupational therapy to learn how to wash, dress, etc., especially for those with hand deformities
  • Speech therapy
  • Treatment and/or surgery to correct crossed eyes
  • Tracheotomy (tube in the windpipe) for severe breathing problems

It is sometimes possible through surgery to counteract the facial paralysis by transferring nerves and muscles to the corners of the mouth.

Information for this article was taken from:
- Moebius1.org. What is Moebius Syndrome?
- Palmer, C. A. (2001). Mobius syndrome. eMedicine, accessed at http://www.emedicine.com/neuro/topic612.htm

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