What causes double vision or facial twitching and numbness? There are certain symptoms that might be linked to cranial nerve disorder. Here, DR SEIN LWIN, senior consultant neurosurgeon at the Advanced Brain and Spine Surgical Centre, highlights some key signs of cranial nerve damage.
What exactly is a cranial nerve disorder?
We have 12 cranial nerves that come from the underside of the brain, and lead to parts of our head and neck. These include:
- sensory nerves, which are responsible for senses such as smell, hearing and touch;
- motor nerves, which are responsible for the movement and function of your muscles or glands; and
- special senses, which convey sensations to the brain; for example, olfactory, optic nerves, taste and balance.
A cranial nerve disorder occurs when one or any of these nerves are impaired. Depending on the disorder, this nerve damage can be caused by an underlying disease such as a tumour, injury from trauma, infection, inflammation or stroke.
Not only can a cranial disorder impact one’s quality of life – severe pain, for instance – but it can also be life-threatening in certain situations; for example, if a tumour is compressing the brain. What’s more, these nerve-compressing tumours can lead to loss of vision, smell or hearing.
What are some red flag symptoms?
The symptoms you experience will depend on which nerves are damaged, and where they are located. Symptoms of cranial nerve damage may include:
- facial numbness in one or both sides of the face;
- pain in the face that lasts longer than two to three days;
- facial weakness;
- facial twitching;
- loss of taste;
- vision problems, including double vision;
- hearing loss; and
- vertigo or dizziness.
When to consult a doctor
Cranial nerve disorders should be treated as early as they are diagnosed. So, it’s best to promptly consult a neurosurgeon or your family doctor; he or she can guide you to the appropriate specialist to rule out any underlying causes.
During your consultation, it is important to provide detailed information about any accompanying symptoms, your lifestyle, and your personal and family medical history to get a clearer understanding of your condition. In addition to a physical examination, your doctor may order certain diagnostic tests such as an MRI scan, for further investigation.
Are cranial nerve disorders treatable?
Treatment really depends on the type, severity and location of the nerve disorder.
Some cranial nerve issues can go away on their own, without any treatment. Others will require treatment so that they don’t progressively get worse.
While some conditions can be effectively managed with medication – Bell’s Palsy, for instance, can be treated with steroids – more severe conditions may require surgical intervention. Fortunately, there are minimally invasive procedures that can treat certain conditions and remove tumours microscopically or endoscopically.
Advanced Brain & Spine Surgical Centre
#04-03 Gleneagles Medical Centre, 6 Napier Road
6252 4514 | brainandspine.sg
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