All About Bell’s Palsy

Bells palsy is a form of facial paralysis, where the facial nerves are damaged and no longer facilitate facial muscle movement. This medical condition is named after Dr. Charles Bell, a Scottish researcher, whereas palsy means paralysis in medical terms.

Facial nerves control our facial expression along with the senses and activities conjoined with it like:

  • sense of taste
  • blinking
  • help with speech
  • swallowing
  • facial sensation
  • sensitivity to hear
  • crying
  • salivation

The facial nerve is also called the 7th nerve and travels from the brain stem to the brain. It exits the brain in a narrow bone canal behind each ear. Bells palsy generally affects only one of the two facial nerves leading to facial paralysis of one half of the face. In very rare cases, both the facial nerves inflame leading to complete facial paralysis.

To combat this situation successfully, the patient as well as the patient’s family should know well about bells palsy. Bells palsy is a sudden condition. It descends over night, with the patient feeling heaviness and stiffness in the affected part of the face. Within a couple of days from its onset, it takes over completely and prohibits any muscle movement in the affected half of the face. Bells palsy can be a traumatic experience for the patient who may suffer from associated troubles ranging from severe headaches, dizziness to blurred speech. It also leads to abnormal blinking, impaired sense of taste and facial distortion. Patients cannot close, blink, squeeze or cry with the eye of the affected side which remains open all the time. Even during sleep.

The exact cause of bells palsy is still unknown. Studies about bells palsy say that, any infection which can lead to inflammation of the facial nerve can cause it. On maximum occasions, Bells palsy is caused by the virus Herpes Simplex 1 that is known for causing fever blisters or cold sores.

 

Patients with diabetic condition and pregnant women are likely to be more susceptible to bells palsy. Also if there has been a severe facial injury, it can result in Bells palsy.

 

In extremely rare cases, it has been seen that patients have not recovered completely. The incomplete recovery leaves the patient with mild paralysis of the face where the patient may experience weakness in the facial muscles and slight stiffness.

Due to lack of awareness about bells palsy, it is often confused with stroke. Neither is it a haemorrhage. It is a simple swelling, or irritation or any inflammation of the facial nerve which hinders its normal functioning. If the facial paralysis of a patient is a steady paralysis and not an overnight condition, then it cannot be termed as bells palsy.

Although no specific set of tests are designed to diagnose bells palsy, a thorough examination by your doctor would diagnose the disorder. He may prescribe additional tests that may include MRI scan and CT scan. No surgery however is required for the same. Medicines may be prescribed to increase the heeling process along with facial exercise to enable mobility if the muscles.

What research and observation says about bells palsy is that, it is of temporary nature and is self cured within a time period ranging from weeks to months. This may vary with individual patients and the time the nerve takes to heel. Since the condition is not age bound and can affect anyone, patients below 40 years of age are likely to recover faster than those above 60 years of age. Nonetheless, recovery is to happen, however steady.

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