The syndrome has a higher prevalence in females and typically appears between 5 – 15 years of age.
In addition to the connective tissue disease, the condition is sometimes accompanied by neurological, ocular and oral symptoms. The range and severity of associated symptoms and findings are highly variable.
Neurological abnormalities are common. Roughly 45% of people with Parry–Romberg syndrome are also afflicted with trigeminal neuralgia (severe pain in the tissues supplied by the ipsilateral trigeminal nerve, including the forehead, eye, cheek, nose, mouth and jaw) and/or migraine (severe headaches that may be accompanied by visual abnormalities, nausea and vomiting).
10% of affected individuals develop a seizure disorder as part of the disease. The seizures are typically Jacksonian in nature (characterized by rapid spasms of a muscle group that subsequently spread to adjacent muscles) and occur on the side contralateral to the affected side of the face. Half of these cases are associated with abnormalities in both the gray and white matter of the brain—usually ipsilateral but sometimes contralateral—that are detectable on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.
Enophthalmos (recession of the eyeball within the orbit) is the most common eye abnormality observed in Parry–Romberg syndrome. It is caused by a loss of subcutaneous tissue around the orbit. Other common findings include drooping of the eyelid (ptosis), constriction of the pupil (miosis), redness of the conjunctiva, and decreased sweating (anhidrosis) of the affected side of the face. Collectively, these signs are referred to as Horner's syndrome. Other ocular abnormalities include ophthalmoplegia (paralysis of one or more of the extraocular muscles) and other types of strabismus, uveitis, and heterochromia of the iris.
The tissues of the mouth, including the tongue, gingiva, teeth and soft palate are commonly involved in Parry–Romberg syndrome. 50% of affected individuals develop dental abnormalities such as delayed eruption, dental root exposure, or resorption of the dental roots on the affected side. 35% have difficulty or inability to normally open the mouth or other jaw symptoms, including temporomandibular joint disorder and spasm of the muscles of mastication on the affected side. 25% experience atrophy of one side of the upper lip and tongue.
The fact that some people affected with this disease have circulating antinuclear antibodies in their serum supports the theory that Parry–Romberg syndrome may be an autoimmune disease, specifically a variant of localized scleroderma. Several instances have been reported where more than one member of a family has been affected, prompting speculation of an autosomal dominant inheritance pattern. However, there has also been at least one report of monozygotic twins in which only one of the twins was affected, casting doubt on this theory. Further, the National Organization for Rare Disorders has stated there is currently no evidence that Parry–Romberg syndrome is genetic or that it can be passed on to children. Various other theories about the cause and pathogenesis have been suggested, including alterations in the peripheral sympathetic nervous system (perhaps as a result of trauma or infection involving the cervical plexus or the sympathetic trunk), as the literature reported it following sympathectomy, disorders in migration of cranial neural crest cells, or chronic cell-mediated inflammatory process of the blood vessels. It is likely that the disease results from different mechanisms in different people, with all of these factors potentially being involved.