What is Moebius Syndrome?

What is Moebius Syndrome?

Moebius syndrome is a rare neurological condition that can affect several cranial nerves, particularly those that control the muscles of the face. In most cases, the sixth and seventh cranial nerves are missing from birth (congenitally absent). The absence of these nerves leads to the characteristic facial paralysis and other symptoms of Moebius syndrome.

Moebius Syndrome was named after Dr. Paul Julius Moebius who first reported the condition in 1888.


The symptoms of Moebius syndrome depend on which nerves are affected. Whatever symptoms a person has will be apparent from birth. In most cases, the sixth and seventh cranial nerves are missing, though other cranial nerves may also be affected. 

The most common features of Moebius syndrome include: 

  • Facial paralysis

  • Lack of facial expressions; children with Moebius syndrome cannot smile or frown

  • Infants with Moebius syndrome can’t move their eyes to track an object.

  • Eyelids that don’t completely close, even during sleep

  • Dry and irritated eyes

  • A small chin and mouth

  • Dental problems

  • Drooling, feeding problems, poor sucking in infancy

  • Cleft palate

  • Webbing of the hands or feet

  • Crossed eyes

  • Short tongue

  • Weak muscle tone

  • Abnormal curvature of the spine

  • Respiratory disorders

  • Sleep problems

  • Upper body weakness

  • Hearing loss

  • Skeletal abnormalities of the hands, feet, and limbs (club feet)

  • Other disorders related to speech, swallowing, and vision

  • Underdeveloped chest wall muscles.

Other Symptoms:



  • In some cases, the underdeveloped muscles of the chest are associated with another condition called Poland syndrome. People with Poland syndrome are missing part of one of the large muscles of the chest (pectoralis major). This abnormal development can give the chest a concave appearance and usually causes upper body weakness and, sometimes, rib cage abnormalities. Often individuals with Poland syndrome will also have abnormalities of the hand on the same side and, rarely, internal organs will be affected. People who also have Moebius syndrome may have other symptoms that do affect movement.

  • Some studies report up to 20 to 30% of children with Moebius syndrome have also been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, though this association may be overstated. Since people with Moebius syndrome are physically unable to demonstrate facial expressions and may struggle to look people in the eye, these features may be construed as autistic behavior even though they are due to physical limitations.

  • Some children with Moebius syndrome may have motor, speech, or other delays.




The exact cause of Moebius syndrome is not known. Researchers suspect that, like many other rare conditions, it is most likely caused by many different factors. More research is needed.


Please consult a medical professional for treatment options.

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