Moebius Syndrome

Moebius syndrome is a rare birth defect caused by the absence or underdevelopment of the 6th and 7th cranial nerves, which control eye movements and facial expression. Many of the other cranial nerves may also be affected, including the 3rd, 5th, 8th, 9th, 11th and 12th. The first symptom, present at birth, is an inability to suck. Other symptoms can include: feeding, swallowing, and choking problems; excessive drooling; crossed eyes; lack of facial expression; inability to smile; eye sensitivity; motor delays; high or cleft palate; hearing problems and speech difficulties. Children with Moebius syndrome are unable to move their eyes back and forth. Decreased numbers of muscle fibers have been reported. Deformities of the tongue, jaw, and limbs, such as clubfoot and missing or webbed fingers, may also occur. As children get older, lack of facial expression and inability to smile become the dominant visible symptoms. Approximately 30 to 40 percent of children with Moebius syndrome have some degree of autism.There are four recognized categories of Moebius syndrome:Group I, characterized by small or absent brain stem nuclei that control the cranial nerves;Group II, characterized by loss and degeneration of neurons in the facial peripheral nerve;Group III, characterized by loss and degeneration of neurons and other brain cells, microscopic areas of damage, and hardened tissue in the brainstem nuclei, and,Group IV, characterized by muscular symptoms in spite of a lack of lesions in the cranial nerve.


There is no specific course of treatment for Moebius syndrome. Treatment is supportive and in accordance with symptoms. Infants may require feeding tubes or special bottles to maintain sufficient nutrition. Surgery may correct crossed eyes and improve limb and jaw deformities. Physical and speech therapy often improves motor skills and coordination, and leads to better control of speaking and eating abilities. Plastic reconstructive surgery may be beneficial in some individuals. Nerve and muscle transfers to the corners of the mouth have been performed to provide limited ability to smile.


There is no cure for Moebius syndrome. In spite of the impairments that characterize the disorder, proper care and treatment give many individuals a normal life expectancy.


The NINDS conducts and supports a broad range of research on neurogenetic disorders, including Moebius syndrome. The goals of these studies are to develop improved techniques to diagnose, treat, and eventually cure these disorders.


Moebius Syndrome Foundation
Non-profit organization that provides individuals and families with a support network; promotes public and professional education about the disorder, and promotes and funds research.

P.O. Box 147
Pilot Grove, MO 65276
Tel: Pilot Grove

March of Dimes
Works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects and infant mortality through programs of research, community services, education, and advocacy.

1275 Mamaroneck Avenue
White Plains, NY 10605
Tel: White Plains
Fax: 914-428-8203

Children's Craniofacial Association
Non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for people with facial differences and their families.

13140 Coit Road
Suite 517
Dallas, TX 75240
Tel: Dallas
Fax: 214-570-8811

National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)
Federation of voluntary health organizations dedicated to helping people with rare "orphan" diseases and assisting the organizations that serve them. Committed to the identification, treatment, and cure of rare disorders through programs of education, advocacy, research, and service.

55 Kenosia Avenue
Danbury, CT 06810
Tel: Danbury
Fax: 203-798-2291

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NINDS Disorders is an index of neurological conditions provided by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. This valuable tool offers detailed descriptions, facts on treatment and prognosis, and patient organization contact information for over 500 identified neurological disorders.

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