What is Bell’s palsy?
Bell’s palsy is a condition that leads to a temporary weakness or paralysis of the muscles in the face. It can occur when the nerve which controls your facial muscles becomes swollen, inflamed, or compressed.
The condition causes one side of your head to sag or becomes rigid. You might have difficulty grinning or closing your eye on the affected side.
In most cases, Bell’s palsy is temporary and symptoms generally go away after a couple of weeks.
Though it may occur at any age, the condition is more prevalent among people between ages 16 and 60.
Bell’s palsy is named after the Scottish anatomist Charles Bell, who was the first to describe the condition.
Symptoms of Bell’s palsy:
The symptoms can develop one to two weeks once you have a cold, ear infection, or eye infection.
They usually appear suddenly, and you might notice them when you awake in the daytime or when you try to eat or drink.
Bell’s palsy is marked by a droopy appearance on one side of the face along with the inability to open/close your eye on the affected side. In some cases, Bell’s palsy might affect either side of the face.
Some other signs and symptoms include:
- Difficulty drinking and eating
- An inability to make facial expressions, such as smiling or frowning
- Facial weakness
- Muscle twitches in the face
- Dry mouth and eye
- Sensitivity to noise or sound
- Irritation of the eye on the involved side
Talk to your doctor immediately if you noticed developing any of these symptoms. You shouldn’t ever self-diagnose Bell’s palsy.
The symptoms can be similar to those of other serious conditions, like a stroke or tumor.
What causes Bell’s palsy?
When the seventh cranial nerve becomes swollen or compressed then Bell’s palsy occurs, resulting in facial weakness or paralysis. The exact cause of the damage is unknown, but many medical researchers think it’s probably triggered by a viral infection.
The bacteria/ viruses that have been linked to the development include:
- HIV, (which damages the immune system)
- Herpes simplex, which causes cold sores and genital herpes
- Sarcoidosis, which causes organ inflammation
- Epstein-Barr virus, which causes mononucleosis
- Herpes zoster virus, which causes chickenpox and shingles
- Lyme disease, which is a bacterial infection caused by infected ticks
Your risk of getting (developing) Bell’s palsy increases if you:
- have a family history of the condition
- have diabetes
- are pregnant
- have a lung infection
How to diagnose Bell’s palsy?
Your doctor will take a physical examination to find out the extent of the weakness in your facial muscles.
They’ll also ask you questions about your symptoms, such as when they occurred or when you noticed them first.
Your doctor may also use many different tests to create a diagnosis. These tests may include blood tests to check for the presence of a bacterial or viral infection.
Your doctor might also utilize an MRI or CT scan to look at the nerves in your face.
How to treat Bell’s palsy?
In most cases, the symptoms will improve without treatment. However, it may take several weeks or months for your muscles in your head to regain their normal strength.
The following remedies may help in your recovery.
Medication for your recovery:
- Corticosteroid medications, which reduce inflammation
- Antiviral or antibacterial medication, which may be prescribed in case a virus or bacteria resulting from your Bell’s palsy
- Eye drop
- Over-the-counter pain medicines, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help relieve mild pain
Home treatment for your recovery:
- An eye patch (for the dry eye)
- A hot, moist towel over your face to relieve pain
- Facial massage
- Physical therapy exercises for stimulating your facial muscles
Are there any potential complications of Bell’s palsy?
Most people who have an episode of Bell’s palsy will totally recover with no complications.
However, complications may occur in more severe cases. These include the following:
- You might have damage to the 7th cranial nerve. This nerve controls your facial muscles.
- You may have excessive dryness in the eye, which may result in eye infections, ulcers, or even blindness.
- You may have synkinesis, and it is a condition in which moving body part causes another to move involuntarily. For example, your eye will close when you try to smile.
What’s the long-term outlook for people with Bell’s palsy issue?
The long-term outlook for people with Bell’s palsy is generally good. Recovery time may vary depending on the intensity of nerve damage.
Generally, however, individuals are able to see an improvement in just fourteen days after the first onset of symptoms.
Many will completely recover within three to six months, but it might be more for people with more severe cases of Bell’s palsy. In rare instances, symptoms may continue to return or may be irreversible.
Call your doctor immediately if you are showing any signs or symptoms of Bell’s palsy. Prompt treatment can help speed up your recovery time and avoid any other complications.
Ask your friends and loved ones for support.
If you’re feeling anxious or depressed, consider joining a support group or seeking counseling. Believe in your ability to take control of the pain…
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