Bell’s palsy is a paralysis or weakness on one side of the face which results from trauma or damage to the facial nerves. The damage of the facial nerves interferes with the messages that the brain wants to send to the facial muscles. Bell’s palsy is characterized by the swelling of the facial nerve, which then causes droopy appearance around the eye and the mouth on the side of the face that was affected. The extent of the nerve damage determines the time needed to recover. In many cases, steroids are used to treat this disorder.
What Is Bell’s Palsy?
The disease Bell’s palsy causes a sudden weakness in facial muscles. This results in a person exhibiting a marked facial droop or a smirk. One or both of the eyes may appear to be half-closed. Each facial nerve directs the muscles on one side of the face, which includes eye blinking and eye closing, taste sensation for tongue, facial expressions like frowning and smiling.
This disorder is not related to stroke. However, it is the most common cause of facial paralysis. Generally Bell’s palsy only occurs on one side of the face but in rare cases it affects both the sides.
Bell’s Palsy Symptoms
The damage that has been caused to the facial nerves may lead to a number of problems. The common symptoms include twitching, weakness and paralysis on one side of the face or in rare cases both sides. Other symptoms include drooping of the corner of the mouth and eyelids, dryness of the eye or mouth, drooling, excessive tearing in one eye and lack of taste sensations. Symptoms vary from one person to another and the severity depends on mild weakness to paralysis.
Other symptoms related to Bell’s palsy include:
- Ringing in one or both ears
- Discomfort or pain around the jaw or behind the ear
- Impaired speech
- Difficulty in eating and drinking
- Hypersensitivity to sound on the affected side.
Bell’s Palsy Causes
Although the exact reason of this disorder is still unknown, it has often been linked to exposure to virus. It is thought that the facial nerve which passes through a narrow corridor on its way to the face becomes swollen and inflamed mainly due to the viral infection. Apart from the face, this nerve also impacts middle of the ear, tears, and saliva.
Viruses that have been linked to this disease include:
- Head and foot mouth disease
This disease is most common in people who have an upper respiratory infection such as cold or flu, a person who has diabetes and a woman who is pregnant especially during her third trimester or the week after which she has given birth. It also affects those who have genetic predisposition to this disease and often face recurrent attacks.
A mild case of this disease can normally disappear within a month but a recovery from a severe form of this disease is complicated. Complications could be irreversible damage to the facial nerve, partial or complete dryness of the eye, which may cause scratching of the cornea which could lead to blindness.
Bell’s Palsy Treatment
Most of the patients with Bell’s palsy recover fully with or without treatment. Some doctors may suggest certain medications as well as physical therapy to speed up the recovery. Surgery is a very rare option for Bell’s palsy.
Some medications include corticosteroids, which are powerful inflammatory agents and anti-viral drugs. Physical therapists may be utilized to massage and exercise facial muscles in order to alleviate some of the symptoms. In case of surgery, plastic surgery can sometimes be recommended for lasting facial nerve problems.
Bell’s Palsy Legal Considerations
While Bell’s palsy usually heals without treatment, there are more serious cases where it does not heal. Complications from surgeries and medical drugs could leave permanent damage. In such cases, speaking with a specialized medical malpractice attorney in a timely manner is critical.
“Bell’s Palsy.” Better Health Channel. State Government of Victoria. Web. 21 Jan. 2015. <http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Bell’s_palsy>.
“Bell’s Palsy Fact Sheet.” : National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). Web. 21 Jan. 2015. <http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/bells/detail_bells.htm>.
“Bell’s Palsy.” Treatments and Drugs. Mayo Clinic. Web. 21 Jan. 2015. <http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bells-palsy/basics/treatment/con-20020529>.