Cranial Nerve Damage

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What to expect

Cranial nerve damage

Cranial nerve damage occurs when any of the twelve cranial nerves are damaged as a result of injury to the nervous system. Common causes of cranial nerve injury include damage to the brain e.g. stroke or a traumatic brain injury.

Speech and language therapy is highly beneficial for individuals with cranial nerve damage. Speech and language therapy will provide the individual and others involved in their care with exercises, strategies and advice in helping them to reach their full potential in their communication, eating and drinking.

What is cranial nerve damage?

Cranial nerve damage is an injury to any of the twelve cranial nerves within the nervous system. Cranial nerve damage is commonly caused by a stroke or traumatic brain injury. There are twelve pairs of cranial nerves in the central nervous system; each cranial nerve serves a different function. Depending on which nerves have been damaged there will be different symptoms and difficulties.

Cranial nerves

The nervous system comprises of twelve pairs of cranial nerves, each with their own function. The cranial nerves and their functions include:

  • Olfactory nerve – this nerve is responsible for the sense of smell.
  • Optic nerve – this nerve is responsible for sending visual information to the brain.
  • Oculomotor nerve – this nerve is responsible for most of the movement of the eye.
  • Trochlear nerve – this nerve is also responsible for specific movements of the eye.
  • Trigeminal nerve – this nerve is responsible for receiving sensation from the face and controls the muscles responsible for chewing.
  • Abducens nerve - is responsible for the abduction of the eye.
  • Facial nerve – the facial nerve is responsible for the movement of the facial muscles, taste in the anterior 2/3 of the tongue and some of the tongue movements.
  • Vestibulocochlear nerve – this nerve is responsible for the sense of sound, gravity and movement (important for balance). It is also plays an important role in hearing.
  • Glossopharyngeal nerve – this nerve is responsible for taste in the posterior 1/3 of the tongue and some of the movements of the tongue.
  • Vagus nerve – this nerve is responsible for the muscles involved in swallowing, voice and resonance.
  • Accessory nerve – this nerve controls specific muscles involved in the movement of the neck and shoulders.
  • Hypoglosssal nerve – this nerve controls the movement of the tongue which is important for speech and swallowing.

What are the common symptoms of cranial nerve damage?

The type of difficulty experienced by individuals with cranial nerve damage will vary depending on what cranial nerves have been affected. Damage to a specific cranial nerve will cause a difficulty in its particular function. Common difficulties experienced by individuals with cranial nerve damage include:

  • Impairment in any of the senses including hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch.
  • Difficulty in speaking.
  • Swallowing difficulties.
  • Difficulty with walking, standing and sitting.
  • Muscle weakness or incoordination.
  • Muscle pain.
  • Difficulty with sleep.
  • Muscle spasms.
  • Numbness of the skin.
  • Loss of sensation.
  • Deafness.
  • Double vision.

How is cranial nerve damage diagnosed?

Cranial nerve damage will be diagnosed by a team of medical professionals. A diagnosis will include a full neurological examination including asking the patient to carry out specific tasks and also scans of the brain.

The speech and language therapist will play a key role in helping to identify cranial nerve damage for patients who are experiencing any difficulties with their speech, voice or swallowing. The speech and language therapist will carry out several examinations for individuals with cranial nerve damage to help determine the severity of the damage to their speech or swallowing.

What difficulties caused by cranial nerve damage can speech and language therapy help with?

The effects of cranial nerve damage will vary for each individual; the type of difficulties experienced will depend on the cranial nerve which has been affected and also the severity of the damage. The effects of cranial nerve damage can range from mild to severe and will affect individuals in different ways.

The following speech and language difficulties might be experienced as a result of cranial nerve damage:

How does speech and language therapy help individuals with cranial nerve damage?

Speech and language therapy can be extremely beneficial for individuals with cranial nerve damage. Speech and language therapy is particularly beneficial for individuals who have swallowing and speech difficulties as a result of cranial nerve damage. Speech and language therapy will focus on helping to regain lost ability, or create compensatory strategies to help minimise the effects the difficulty is having on the individual. Speech and language therapy can also help others involved in the individuals care by providing support and advice for the management of their difficulty.

Benefits of speech and language therapy include:

What would speech and language therapy treatment for cranial nerve damage involve?

Speech and language therapy would initially involve an assessment which includes a number of observations, examination and assessments to help determine the type of speech, language and swallowing difficulties the individual is experiencing. An initial assessment will also determine the severity of these difficulties and what the best treatment option would be.

Following an initial assessment, treatment for speech and language therapy may include some or all of the following:

Treatment will vary depending on the individual. Speech and language therapy will provide an individualised treatment plan specifically tailored to the patient's needs and abilities.

Specific treatment for cranial nerve damage may include:

How do I arrange a speech and language therapy assessment?

If you would like to arrange an assessment for cranial nerve damage please email office@slt.co.ukor call 0330 0885 643.

Summary

Cranial nerve damage occurs when any of the twelve cranial nerves are damaged as a result of injury to the nervous system. The type and severity of the difficulties experienced will vary for each individual and be dependent on the specific nerves that have been damaged. Speech and language therapy is highly beneficial in treating individuals with cranial nerve damage. If you feel you would benefit from speech and language therapy and would like to book an appointment, please email office@slt.co.uk or call 0330 0885 643.


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