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Definition

What is Bell’s palsy?

Bell’s palsy is a disease that causes a temporary weakness or paralysis of the muscles in the face. It also can happen when the nerve controlling your facial muscles becomes inflamed, swollen, or compressed. The condition engenders one side of your face to droop or become stiff. Difficulty smiling or closing your eye on the affected side are common signs you may have. In most cases, Bell’s palsy is temporary and symptoms usually go away after a few weeks.

How common is Bell’s palsy?

Although Bell’s palsy can occur at any age, the condition is more common among people between ages 16 and 60. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of Bell’s palsy?

Some common signs and symptoms of Bell’s palsy happen suddenly and may include:

  • Rapid onset of mild weakness to total paralysis on one side of your face — occurring within hours to days
  • Facial droop and difficulty making facial expressions, such as closing your eye or smiling
  • Drooling
  • Pain around the jaw or in or behind your ear on the affected side
  • Increased sensitivity to sound on the affected side
  • Headache
  • A decrease in your ability to taste
  • Changes in the amount of tears and saliva you produce

However, in rare cases, Bell’s palsy can affect the nerves on both sides of your face.

When should I see my doctor?

Early diagnosis and treatment can stop this condition from worsening and prevent another medical emergency, so talk to your doctor as soon as possible to prevent this serious condition.

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consulting with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes Bell’s palsy?

It is proven that Bell’s palsy occurs when the seventh cranial nerve becomes swollen or compressed, resulting in facial weakness or paralysis. However, the exact cause of this damage is unknown, but many medical researchers believe it is most likely triggered by a viral infection. Some viruses that have been associated with the development of Bell’s palsy include:

  • Herpes simplex, which causes cold sores and genital herpes
  • HIV, which damages the immune system
  • Sarcoidosis, which causes organ inflammation
  • Herpes zoster virus, which causes chickenpox and shingles
  • Epstein-Barr virus, which causes mononucleosis

Risk factors

What increases my risk for Bell’s palsy?

You may have a higher risk for this disease if you are in these following conditions:

  • Are pregnant
  • Have diabetes
  • Have a lung infection
  • Have a family history of the condition

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is Bell’s palsy diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects that you may experience this condition, he/she will first perform a physical examination to determine the extent of the weakness in your facial muscles. They’ll also ask you questions about your symptoms, including when they occurred or when they were first noticed.

Your doctor can also use a variety of tests to make a Bell’s palsy diagnosis. These tests may include blood tests to check for the presence of a bacterial or viral infection. Your doctor might also use an MRI or CT scan to check the nerves in your face.

How is Bell’s palsy treated?

Actually, most people with Bell’s palsy recover fully — with or without treatment. There’s no one-size-fits-all treatment for Bell’s palsy, but your doctor may recommend some medications or physical therapies to help speed your recovery. Surgery is rarely an option for Bell’s palsy.

  • Medications

Commonly used medications to treat Bell’s palsy include:

  • Corticosteroids

It includes prednisone, are powerful anti-inflammatory agents. If they can reduce the swelling of the facial nerve, it will fit more comfortably within the bony corridor that surrounds it. Corticosteroids may work best if they’re started within several days of when your symptoms started.

  • Antiviral drugs

The role of antivirals remains unsettled. Antivirals alone have shown no benefit compared with placebo. Antivirals added to steroids are also unlikely to be beneficial.

However, despite this, valacyclovir (Valtrex) is sometimes given in combination with prednisone in people with severe facial palsy.

  • Physical therapy

Paralyzed muscles can shrink and shorten, causing permanent contractures. A physical therapist can teach you how to massage and exercise your facial muscles to help prevent this from occurring.

  • Surgery

In the past, decompression surgery was used to relieve the pressure on the facial nerve by opening the bony passage that the nerve passes through. Today, decompression surgery isn’t recommended. Facial nerve injury and permanent hearing loss are possible risks associated with this surgery.

In rare cases, plastic surgery may be needed to correct lasting facial nerve problems.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage Bell’s palsy?

Following these useful tips can help you to prevent this condition:

  • Protecting the eye you can’t close

Using lubricating eyedrops during the day and an eye ointment at night will help keep your eye moist. Wearing glasses or goggles during the day and an eye patch at night can protect your eye from getting poked or scratched.

  • Taking over-the-counter pain relievers

Aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) may help ease your pain.

  • Applying moist heat

Putting a washcloth soaked in warm water on your face several times a day may help relieve pain.

  • Doing your physical therapy exercises

Massaging and exercising your face according to your physical therapist’s advice may help relax your facial muscles.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: July 3, 2017 | Last Modified: July 3, 2017

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