Moebius syndrome is a rare condition that affects the 6th and 7th cranial nerves, resulting in paralysis of the muscles that control face and eye movements. This means that those affected by Moebius syndrome are unable to move their face: they cannot smile, frown, suck or blink.
Besides a lack of facial expression, other symptoms of Moebius syndrome include problems with feeding and swallowing, crossed eyes, drooling, and hearing and speech impairment. The disorder is present from birth but, due to its rarity, it is not always diagnosed straight away. It is thought that there are only 200 cases in the UK. The cause of Moebius syndrome is currently unknown, although research is being undertaken to establish whether it could be genetic.
There is no cure for Moebius syndrome, although some of the symptoms may be treated. Crossed eyes, for example, may be corrected with surgery and physiotherapy and speech therapy can be beneficial in improving coordination, communication and ability to eat. Around 30% of those with Moebius syndrome are on the autistic spectrum. Life expectancy is not affected by the disorder and support groups exist for those who are affected.
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