November 21st, 2014
The world is full of of embarrassing conditions you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. Every week, Carian discusses one. This week: Moebius Syndrome.
Imagine what life would be like when you cannot smile at someone’s joke, not frown when you are angry or even close your eyes when you want to sleep. 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 and eyes, and thus to form any facial expressions.
This one-in-a-million neurological disorder is present from birth, but its rarity often leads to late diagnosis. Besides a “mask-like” lack of expression, the Moebius syndrome is characterized by the inability to suck, problems with swallowing, and hearing and speech impairment. Most people with Moebius syndrome have normal intelligence. However, because of their expressionless face, crossed eyes and frequent drooling they are often mistakenly labeled as mentally retarded.
There is no cure for Moebius syndrome, although some of the symptoms may be treated. Crossed eyes, for example, may be corrected with surgery. Physical and speech therapy can be beneficial in improving motor skills, coordination and the ability to speak. And I don’t know if you have ever heard of the so called “smile surgery”? But apparently it is possible to transfer muscles from the thigh to the corners of the mouth. Definitely not an easy procedure, or a “cure” for the disorder, but nevertheless it’s fascinating that the ability to smile can be given to people that were never able to express their happiness.
Bogart, K., & Matsumoto, D. (2010). Living With Moebius Syndrome: Adjustment, Social Competence, and Satisfaction With Life The Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Journal, 47 (2), 134-142 DOI: 10.1597/08-257.1