Lesions of the lower cranial nerves (LCN) are due to numerous causes, which need to be differentiated to optimize management and outcome. This review aims at summarizing and discussing diseases affecting LCN. Review of publications dealing with disorders of the LCN in humans. Affection of multiple LCN is much more frequent than the affection of a single LCN. LCN may be affected solely or together with more proximal cranial nerves, with central nervous system disease, or with nonneurological disorders. LCN lesions have to be suspected if there are typical symptoms or signs attributable to a LCN. Causes of LCN lesions can be classified as genetic, vascular, traumatic, iatrogenic, infectious, immunologic, metabolic, nutritional, degenerative, or neoplastic. Treatment of LCN lesions depends on the underlying cause. An effective treatment is available in the majority of the cases, but a prerequisite for complete recovery is the prompt and correct diagnosis. LCN lesions need to be considered in case of disturbed speech, swallowing, coughing, deglutition, sensory functions, taste, or autonomic functions, neuralgic pain, dysphagia, head, pharyngeal, or neck pain, cardiac or gastrointestinal compromise, or weakness of the trapezius, sternocleidomastoid, or the tongue muscles. To correctly assess manifestations of LCN lesions, precise knowledge of the anatomy and physiology of the area is required.
Keywords: Accessory; cranial nerves; glossopharyngeal; hypoglossal; infection; neoplasm; trauma; vagus; vascular.