With Acoustic Neuromas, several cranial nerves may be affected. Other than the Hearing/Balance nerve, the facial nerve can be affected too. The facial nerve runs very close to the Hearing / Balance nerve and even if the tumor isn’t touching the nerve it may get disturbed during treatment.
The Facial Nerve Does A lot
What we don’t realize is that the facial nerve is responsible for a lot! One of the Facebook groups I belong to has a great post By Jackie Diels about neuromuscular retraining. In it, she explains just how much the facial nerve does with regards to range of motion and expression. One of the many functions is blinking and tear production, both of which you tend to have issues with when you have an Acoustic Neuroma. My experience lies in eye care just after surgery and what I call the “after the recovery period”.
Eye Care After Surgery
This is when you eye is most vulnerable. The tumor may have been wrapped around your facial nerve as mine was. They try their best not to disturb it as they are removing the tumor. I have heard in some cases they leave a little bit in as to not to damage the nerve. After surgery is when the disturbed nerves are most raw. In the case of the facial nerve, your eye on your AN side will not close, you have de-sensitivity in your eye and tears are not being produced (When the facial nerve heals you might have the opposite problem with tear production – too much. With me, that was not the case). It is very important that you follow your doctors instructions concerning eye care at this time.
It may be similar for you and may be like this:
- A couple of drops of non-preservative saline solution in your eye every half hour during the day.
- Non-preservative ointment on your eye at night with a patch.
You will probably need to do this for at least ninety days until your eyelid starts to function better but it really depends on your outcome as no 2 AN’s are really alike.
I recommend checking in with your Optometrist regularly while you are doing this. Why you ask? Your Optometrist will be able to spot any problems with your eye care regimen and be able to deal with it swiftly. I know because my eye care after my first surgery was not going as well as I hoped and I found out that my cornea had became ulcerated. Think of your cornea as having tiny little pin holes in it and sunlight and debris start going through those little holes directly to your eyeball. It hurts! I was able to go on antibiotics for my eye and started patching the eye more to protect it. It took awhile but I was able heal my cornea. Unfortunately after awhile your facial nerve only heals so much and you get what you get……I got permanent dry eye.
Eye Care After the Recovery Period
There are several ways to deal with what you are left after your recovery from an Acoustic Neuroma. Your eyelid might still not function 100%. In my case my eyelid does blink but if I don’t consciously force it to blink, it wont. I also don’t make many tears so I have constant dry eye. I can get away with a few hours at the beginning of the day but if there is no humidity in the air, my eye becomes blurry, dry and itchy. The most I have gone without needing my scleral lens is about 4-5 hours and then I need to put it in.
I just mentioned how I deal with my eye care after recovery. I talk more about how I use my slceral lens here. There are other more conventional ways too. Gold Weights and Eyelid Springs help with blinking and Punctal Plugs help with tears. You will need a referral to an Ophthalmologist for the conventional treatments to your eye issues but for the lens you just need to see an Optometrist who specializes in fitting such a lens.
I really hope most who have eye issues after the removal of your Acoustic Neuroma are only temporary. However, this tumor can show up anywhere on the hearing / balance nerve and it’s size and involvement with the facial nerve will vary. If your have some issues after recovery (your new normal) you now have some idea what your treatment choices are.