Möbius syndrome, also spelled as Moebius syndrome, is a rare birth defect caused by incomplete neurological development. The condition is considered very rare, with studies suggesting that less than twenty infants per million are affected. Because of the comparative rarity, diagnosis is often difficult and may not be confirmed until additional symptoms appear. There is no known treatment for Möbius syndrome, though some procedures and surgery may be able to help patients cope with the effects.
The first symptom that may indicate the condition is an inability to suck or breastfeed. The major signifier of Möbius syndrome is a partial paralysis of the muscles in the face, preventing a baby from feeding normally. Other early symptoms can include inability to focus or move the eyes, lack of facial control, and a cleft palate. Depending on the severity of the condition, infants may also have hearing difficulties or missing and deformed limbs.
According to scientific studies, Möbius syndrome is a result of underdevelopment in the cranial nerves. Most cases primarily affect the sixth and seventh cranial nerves, which control facial and eye movement. Some severe cases can also affect other related nerves, leading to sensory, motor, speech and development disabilities.
Infants with Möbius syndrome are often identifiable by their inability to form facial expressions. They tend not to be able to smile or scrunch their faces while crying. Due to paralysis of the lips, they may also have difficulty learning to speak or form words, although many can improve their abilities through speech therapy.
Often, young children with Möbius syndrome are misidentified as having mental disabilities because of their inability to form facial expressions. While patients with the condition do seem suffer from a high rate of autism, many are fully mentally functional. Although children diagnosed with Möbius may have some early education difficulty due to a lack of motor skills or difficulty forming words, they may be able to overcome these early setbacks and enjoy a standard education.
Although there is no treatment that can cure Möbius syndrome, several options can help patients adapt and thrive despite the condition. Physical therapy during childhood can help develop facial muscles and coordination, allowing them to eat and drink normally. Some patients elect to have plastic surgery to correct associated facial deformities, such as a cleft palate or crossed eyes. New surgeries can also implant nerves around the mouth to give better facial control and allow patients greater ability to form facial expressions.