12 Causes of Facial Numbness
The body requires a definite number of hormones in order to work as it should, and it relies on the thyroid gland to deliver them. When that gland in underactive, hypothyroidism is the result. The body strives to constantly maintain a delicate chemical balance, which becomes impossible with hypothyroidism. The end result is that a number of adverse health conditions can come into play. People who suffer from hypothyroidism experience many different symptoms, with numbness of the face and the extremities near the top of the list. The major organs in the body may also be negatively affected, so it’s no real surprise that the nervous system would also experience issues. Experiencing numbness does not necessarily indicate the presence of hypothyroidism, but there have been more than enough links between the two to indicate that numbness is often a symptom.
The varicella-zoster virus is responsible for causing shingles, which usually appears in adults who had chicken pox when they were children. For the most part, shingles will only ever develop once, but about 5% of people who experience shingles will do so more than once. When shingles appear, it normally happens on one side of the body only and on a single part, and generally always on the surface of the skin. There have been instances where shingles have appeared on other parts of the body, with rare cases seen where the vital organs were affected. If shingles appear on the face, nerve damage, albeit temporary, may be the result. When that happens, numbness of the face is one of the most common symptoms, and that can last for several months if the trigeminal nerve is affected. Medication can be prescribed to help reduce the symptoms, but shingles will eventually go away on their own.
3) Trigeminal Neuralgia
If a blood vessel exits the brain stem and exerts too much pressure on the trigeminal nerve, TN (trigeminal neuralgia) is the result. The pressure will either remain constant or fluctuate off and on, eventually wearing away the sheath that surrounds and protects the nerve. Tumors can cause TN, and it can also be one of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. The pain that comes with TN is sharp, and can often be unbearable. There is also a possibility of numbness being one of the major symptoms, and while that is not pleasant either, for many it is a better option than the pain.
There are many known symptoms associated with stroke, but numbness along one side of the face or body is one that is not so well known. The symptoms of stroke usually include slurred speech, drooping of the face, arm weakness, and even the development of a limp. If numbness in the face is added to that list of symptoms, you are looking at a potentially dangerous condition. Oddly enough, it is not the numbness itself that is the danger here, but rather the failure to understand that it is in fact a symptom of stroke. Detecting symptoms early is critical in preventing a stroke. Just as with the stroke itself, the numbness is usually only experienced on one side of the face or body. The brain is adversely affected with a stroke, as is the entire trigeminal nerve, yet the numbness will never appear on both sides of the face when it is happening as a symptom of a stroke. In the event of a lacunar stroke, which takes place deep in the brain, movements will remain unaffected, whereas sensations will be.
5) Nerve Tumors
A swelling or growth that affects the nerve is called a neuroma. Somewhere in the region of 50% of all neuromas are found in the head and neck region, with facial neuromas being rather rare. It is that rarity that often leads to a misdiagnosis. The good news is that facial neuromas are generally always benign. That said, these neuromas can still be problematic, and can put pressure on the nerve that transmits sensations to the brain, which in turn leads to numbness in the face. All of this is dependent upon the branch of the nerve being affected.
6) Transient Ischemic Attack
What may feel like a stroke may actually be a transient ischemic attack (TIA). The difference here is that the symptoms, which tend to include numbness on one side of the face, are temporary, and generally last from a few minutes to around an hour or. A TIA is also far less dangerous than a stroke. Where there is danger is that people who experience a TIA may be at greater risk of having a stroke later on. What that means is that a TIA can actually be a blessing in disguise, as it can lead to preventative measures being taken to reduce the risk of a stroke. Numbness, temporary paralysis of the facial muscles, and weakness in the facial muscles are all symptoms of TIA. It is possible for TIA’s to strike more than once, but if said symptoms go on for more than a 24-hour period, it is usually considered to be a stroke. A TIA differs from an ischemic stroke in that no permanent damage is caused by the brief blockage. The clots are either caused by a cholesterol build up in the artery, or originate in the heart before going on the move. TIA’s are often called a mini-stroke.
7) Hemiplegic Migraine
Migraines are quite common, but a hemiplegic migraine is rare. These types of migraines are so severe that their symptoms are often mistaken for a stroke. The symptoms include paralysis, numbness on one side of the body, and muscle weakness. The numbness generally occurs in the arm, leg, or down one side of the face, although the numb feeling is sometimes replaced by pain. These symptoms are commonly accompanied by what you would usually experience with a migraine with aura condition. There are three genes commonly linked with hemiplegic migraines, and it’s usually a genetic condition. When any of these genes have defects of mutations, the body becomes unable to make the protein required for clear communication between nerve cells.
There are two specific types of trauma that can lead to numbness. An injury that leads to physical damage of the trigeminal nerve or one of its branches is the most obvious of the two. There is all manner of symptoms that may come with the injury, but numbness is certainly one of the most likely. One of the branches becoming compressed is the other type, and the numbness experienced here is akin to an arm “falling asleep” after it has been slept on for an extended period of time. The numb sensation in this type of trauma is usually followed by a pins and needles sensation that can be a little uncomfortable. The most common cause of this particular type of trauma is sleeping in a position that would be considered unnatural. The resulting facial numbness can last for a period of several hours if it is severe enough.
9) Numb Chin Syndrome
Numb chin syndrome involves a particular part of the face succumbing to numbness, and it’s caused by a few different factors. The reason that the chin feels numb, as opposed to the whole face, is because it is the maxillary nerve, which supplies the chin, that is affected. It is usually some form of trauma that causes this, but tumors and cancer can also be a cause of numb chin syndrome. There are a number of different cancers that can cause this, but those that can enter the jaw bone can be particularly dangerous.
10) Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a disease that negatively affects the spinal cord, the brain, and the nervous system, so it’s not really much of a surprise to learn that numbness of the face and other body parts is one of the symptoms. In the early stages, it’s not uncommon for that sensation to come and go, which is why MS is not always diagnosed as the cause. After all, facial numbness can be a symptom of all kinds of different ailments. People who suffer from MS usually experience numbness of the face or other body parts as one of the very first symptoms they deal with. The numbness can stick around for hours or even days before dissipating, only to return at a later date.
11) Peripheral Neuropathy
Disorders of the peripheral nerves are what peripheral neuropath refers to. These disorders were previously more commonly known as neuritis. That previous name made it seem as though a single disorder was the cause, when in actual fact there are a minimum of 100 different disorders that could be the issue. With so many different disorders to choose from, it can be difficult to say which one is causing the numbness in the face, as well as a host of other body parts or areas.
12) Focal Seizures
Major parts of the brain are affected in most seizures, but in focal seizures, it is only relatively small parts that are affected. Sometimes referred to as partial seizures, the symptoms that they bring with them include face twitching, abnormal facial movements, and numbness in the face. It’s a complex series of events that creates these seizures, but it’s usually some sort of scrambling of electrical signals in the brain that is at the root. The seizures range from simple to severe in nature, and can last for mere seconds or several minutes.
There are other causes of face numbness outside of those mentioned above, with panic attacks, acute stress, and depression also factors. When these are the cause, the resulting numbness is referred to as a psychogenic condition. Brain tumors are another potential cause of numbness.
As you can see, there are a variety of different causes of facial numbness, yet it’s a condition that is still relatively uncommon. In many cases, the numbness will be located along one side, or on a small area of the face. The symptoms can be fleeting, or they can last a long time, and may only ever happen once. There are also situations where the numbness can be a symptom of something much more serious. Like many other symptoms, it is often the severity and the length of time it lasts that determines whether or not medical help should be sought. Of all the conditions discussed, it is arguably a transient ischemic attack that is the most dangerous, and it’s also the one that is frequently misdiagnosed. If it is properly diagnosed, it may well be a sign that the patient is at real risk of a stroke at a later date.
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