Melkersson-Rosenthal Syndrome

What is Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome?

Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome is a rare neurological disorder characterised by recurring facial paralysis or palsy, swelling of the face and lips (usually the upper lip), and the development of folds and furrows in the tongue.

Does it develop in childhood?

Onset is in childhood or early adolescence. After recurrent attacks (ranging from days to years in between), swelling may persist and increase, eventually becoming permanent. The lip may become hard and cracked with a reddish-brown discoloration. The tongue may develop furrows.

What causes Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome?

The cause of Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome is unknown, but there may be a familial link although a gene has not yet been identified.

Is there any treatment?

Treatment is symptomatic and may include medication therapies with anti-inflammatory medication and corticosteroids to reduce swelling.

Occasionally surgery may be recommended for severe cases to relieve pressure on the facial nerves and to reduce swollen tissue, but its effectiveness has not been established.

Facial Rehabilitation is available from specialist centres where physiotherapists and speech and language therapists specialise in treatment for people with facial palsy. The treatment is similar to the treatment for Bell’s palsy although the causes of the two conditions are different.

What is the prognosis?

Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome may recur intermittently after it first appears. The person will therefore experience intermittent facial weakness which can resolve as the nerve recovers. It can become a long standing problem as with each attack recovery is less satisfactory.

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Last reviewed: 10-12-2014    ||    Next review due: 10-12-2016