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Saturday, October 24, 2020

Bell’s Palsy: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

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If you have never heard about bell’s palsy before now, then you must know that you are not alone. Bell’s palsy is a relatively rare condition that triggers a weakness paralysis or weakness of the facial muscles. This condition can occur when the nerves that control a person’s facial muscles get swollen, inflamed, or compressed.

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The condition will cause one side of a person’s face to become stiff or droop. You may have some difficulty smiling or even closing your eye on the side that has been affected. In a lot of cases, Bell’s palsy turns out to be temporary, and the symptoms often go away after a week or two.

Although it has been found that Bell’s palsy can occur to persons of any age, the condition is most common among individuals between the ages of 16 and 60. The Bell’s palsy disease is named after Charles Bell, the Scottish anatomist who first described it.

Symptoms of Bell’s palsy

You may notice the symptoms of Bell’s palsy one to two weeks after you suffer a cold, an eye infection, or an ear infection. The symptoms usually show up abruptly, and they may be noticed when a person wakes up in the morning or when a person tries to eat or drink.

The notable sign of Bell’s palsy is a droopy appearance on the affected side of a person’s face and the inability for the eye on the affected part to open or close. In very rare cases, Bell’s palsy can affect both sides of a person’s face.

Below are some other signs and symptoms of Bell’s palsy:

  • Drooling
  • Facial weakness
  • Difficulty eating and drinking
  • An inability to make simple facial expressions, such as frowning or smiling
  • Muscle twitches in the face
  • Dry mouth and eye
  • Sensitivity to sound
  • Headache
  • Irritation of the eye on the part of the face involved

Ensure that you call your doctor immediately once you develop any of the mentioned symptoms. You must never make the mistake of self-diagnosing Bell’s palsy.

This is because the symptoms can be quite similar to those of other severe conditions like a stroke or a brain tumor.

Causes of Bell’s palsy

Bell’s palsy can occur when a person’s seventh cranial nerve becomes compressed or swollen, resulting in facial paralysis or weakness.

The exact cause of the damage is yet to be known, but many medical researchers are of the opinion that bacteria or a viral infection most likely triggers it.

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There are a few viruses/bacteria that have been connected to the development of Bell’s palsy, and they include:

  • Herpes simplex, which is responsible for genital herpes and cold sores
  • HIV, which can damage the immune system
  • Sarcoidosis, known to cause organ inflammation
  • Herpes zoster virus, known to cause shingles and chickenpox
  • Epstein-Barr virus, known to cause mononucleosis
  • Lyme disease, a common bacterial infection that is caused by infected ticks

Risk factors for Bell’s palsy?

You have a higher risk of developing Bell’s palsy if you:

  • Have diabetes
  • Are pregnant
  • Have a lung infection
  • Have a family history of bell palsy

How to get Bell’s palsy diagnosed

The doctor has to first carry out a physical examination to find out the extent of the weakness in a person’s facial muscles. The doctor will also ask you questions regarding your symptoms, and that includes when they occurred or when you noticed them.

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?

Bell's Palsy
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In most cases, Bell’s palsy symptoms improve without treatment. However, it can take several weeks or months for the muscles in your face to regain their normal strength.

The treatments below may be helpful in your recovery.

Medication

  • Corticosteroid drugs, which helps to reduce inflammation
  • Antibacterial or antiviral medication, which may be prescribed to combat any virus or bacteria that may have caused your Bell’s palsy
  • Over-the-counter pain killers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, which can help to relieve mild pain
  • Eye drops

Home treatment for Bell’s palsy

  • An eye patch (to improve your dry eye)
  • A warm and moist towel over the affected side of your face to relieve pain
  • Physical therapy exercises to help with stimulating your facial muscles
  • facial massage

What are the likely complications of Bell’s palsy?

Most individuals who have an episode of Bell’s palsy are known to recover entirely without any complications. Nevertheless, complications can occur in cases of Bell’s palsy that are more severe.

These complications include the following:

You may suffer some damage to the seventh cranial nerve (that is the nerve that controls your facial muscles).

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You may suffer some excessive dryness in the eye, and that can lead to ulcers, a range of eye infections, or even blindness.

You may notice synkinesis, which is a condition in which the movement of one body part leads to another the involuntary movement of another part. For example, one eye may close when you try to smile.

The long-term outlook for those with Bell’s palsy

The outlook for individuals with Bell’s palsy is acceptable in most cases. Recovery time will often vary depending on how severe the nerve damage is. However, people can generally notice an improvement within two weeks after the first onset of the symptoms.

Most will recover completely within three to six months, but it could be longer for individuals with severe cases of Bell’s palsy. In some rare instances, the symptoms may return or may even be permanent.

Ensure to call your doctor immediately once you notice any signs or symptoms of Bell’s palsy. Quick treatment can be helpful to speed up your recovery time.

Reference

  • Bell’s palsy information page; NIH
Bell's Palsy
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Disclaimer: This article is purely informative & educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

Emmanuella Ekokotu
Ekokotu Emmanuella is a sociologist and Anthropologist, writer, and fashion model who lives in Benin city, Edo state,Nigeria.
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