What causes facial dysmorphism and how can it be treated?

Symptom Database

Facial dysmorphism, also known as facial abnormalities or craniofacial anomalies, refers to a range of facial deformities or malformations that can affect an individual’s facial features. These abnormalities can vary in severity and can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetic disorders. In this article, we will explore the causes of facial dysmorphism and discuss the available treatment options, including facial plastic surgery.

Causes of Facial Dysmorphism

Facial dysmorphism can be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Some individuals may be born with genetic disorders that affect the development of their facial features, while others may develop facial abnormalities due to external factors during pregnancy or early childhood.

Genetic Disorders

Genetic disorders play a significant role in the development of facial dysmorphism. These disorders can result from mutations or changes in specific genes that are responsible for facial development. Some common genetic disorders associated with facial abnormalities include:

  • Down syndrome: Individuals with Down syndrome often have distinct facial features, such as slanted eyes, a flat nasal bridge, and a small mouth.
  • Cleft lip and palate: This condition occurs when the tissues that form the lip and palate do not fuse properly during fetal development, resulting in a split or opening in the lip or roof of the mouth.
  • Treacher Collins syndrome: This genetic disorder affects the development of facial bones and tissues, leading to underdeveloped cheekbones, small jaws, and downward-slanting eyes.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors can also contribute to the development of facial dysmorphism. These factors may include exposure to certain medications, toxins, or infections during pregnancy. For example, maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy can lead to a condition known as fetal alcohol syndrome, which can cause facial abnormalities, including a thin upper lip and a flattened midface.

Treatment Options for Facial Dysmorphism

The treatment of facial dysmorphism depends on the underlying cause and the severity of the condition. In some cases, no treatment may be necessary if the facial abnormalities do not significantly impact the individual’s health or quality of life. However, for individuals with more severe facial deformities, various treatment options are available.

Facial Plastic Surgery

Facial plastic surgery is a common treatment option for individuals with facial dysmorphism. This type of surgery aims to improve the appearance and function of the facial features. It can involve procedures such as:

  • Rhinoplasty: This procedure is performed to reshape the nose and correct any nasal deformities.
  • Orthognathic surgery: Also known as jaw surgery, this procedure is used to correct abnormalities in the jaw structure, such as an underbite or overbite.
  • Cleft lip and palate repair: Surgery can be performed to close the cleft and restore normal function and appearance to the lip and palate.

Facial plastic surgery can greatly improve the self-esteem and quality of life for individuals with facial dysmorphism. However, it is important to note that not all facial abnormalities can be completely corrected through surgery, and the results may vary depending on the individual’s specific condition.

Other Treatment Approaches

In addition to facial plastic surgery, other treatment approaches may be recommended for individuals with facial dysmorphism. These may include:

  • Speech therapy: For individuals with cleft lip and palate or other conditions that affect speech, speech therapy can help improve communication skills.
  • Orthodontic treatment: Braces or other orthodontic appliances may be used to correct dental and jaw alignment issues.
  • Psychological support: Dealing with facial dysmorphism can have a significant impact on an individual’s mental and emotional well-being. Psychological support, such as counseling or support groups, can be beneficial in helping individuals cope with their condition.


Facial dysmorphism can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetic disorders and environmental influences. While some individuals may not require treatment for mild facial abnormalities, others may benefit from facial plastic surgery or other treatment approaches. It is important for individuals with facial dysmorphism to consult with healthcare professionals who specialize in craniofacial anomalies to determine the most appropriate treatment options for their specific condition. With the advancements in medical technology and the support available, individuals with facial dysmorphism can lead fulfilling lives and achieve improved facial recognition and self-confidence.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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