Bell’s Palsy

What is Bell’s Palsy?

Bell’s palsy, which is also called facial palsy, occurs when one side of your face droops or becomes paralyzed. It might be hard to close your eye on the side that is affected, and you may not be able to smile properly or completely close your mouth on the affected side.

Often happening suddenly — you might wake up in the morning with the condition — Bell’s palsy probably happens when the nerve that controls one side of your face becomes swollen or inflamed.

Doctors aren’t absolutely certain what leads to it happening, but it might occur after some types of viral infections. The condition will go away on its own, and most people see improvement in a few weeks.

What are the Symptoms of Bell’s Palsy?

Most problems that impact one of the facial nerves are easy to identify, because facial muscles are weak or paralyzed. You’ll be unable to use the muscles in your face to raise your eyebrow, but on the affected side it will be difficult or impossible to blink or smile like usual, whistle and wrinkle your forehead although the severity varies greatly from case to case. Drinking or eating might become difficult as it will be hard to properly tighten the lips to retain food or fluids in the mouth. For the same reason, it is often impossible to use a straw to drink.

You may also experience dry eyes or dry mouth — or the opposite, excessive tears and saliva. Your sense of taste and smell might also be affected and the condition is often accompanied by bad taste in your mouth, dizziness and fatigue.

Symptoms of Bell’s palsy may mimic those of a stroke, because they can come on rapidly. Seek medical attention if you have any type of sudden facial paralysis or weakness. Your doctor will be able to differentiate between Bell’s palsy and stroke.

Bell’s Palsy Causes

There are quite a few known causes of Bell’s Palsy that contribute to the weakness on one side of the face. It is known that the seventh cranial nerve endures trauma which causes the weakness or paralysis which is usually only temporary. This facial area weaves through a narrow and bony portion of the skull which does not allow much room for swelling.

Diabetes and viral infections such as the herpes simplex 1 virus are the most likely culprits in a large number of cases since it manifests more often in people who have or are recovering from such medical conditions. Also, an upper respiratory tract infection can leave a person with a case of Bell’s Palsy since there have been quite a few cases where such a recent infection has resulted in the facial weakness. A small portion (from around 4 to 14%) of cases are the result of familial inheritance with an ancestor having experienced it in the past.

How is Bell’s Palsy Treated?

Most cases of Bell’s palsy will clear up on their own, but there can be uncomfortable side effects, so doctors will often try to reduce swelling of the affected facial nerve through the use of anti-inflammatory corticosteriods. Some medical professionals also recommend the use of antiviral drugs, but while there may be a link between viral infection and Bell’s palsy, there’s no proof that antivirals can be beneficial. Surgery to relieve pressure on the nerve is rarely recommended because its risks outweigh the sometimes temporary benefits.

In some cases, small signs of a past Bell’s palsy can also remain visible after the condition has passed.

If you continue to experience paralysis of the facial muscles, you may benefit from physical therapy. The exercises that a physical therapist can provide reduce the risk of the muscles being permanently impacted.

Bell’s Palsy Prevention

A healthy diet and an overall quality lifestyle which includes things such as exercise and the proper amount of rest, vitamins, and nutrition will lead to a more healthy nervous system which can be somewhat preventative in relation to Bell’s Palsy. Foods which have a solid amount of the B vitamins seem to be some of the most important, and the daily recommended dose should always be consumed. Things such as garlic, turmeric, and chili peppers help to strengthen the nervous system due to their anti-inflammatory properties, and then Omega-3 helps to improve nerve communication. Further, if the condition is acquired, then working with a therapist can help to regain some facial functionality and prevent things from worsening.