Thursday, December 7, 2023

Bell’s Palsy: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

The condition known as Bell’s palsy causes the muscles on one side of the face to weaken abruptly. Usually, the weakness passes over a few weeks and is just momentary. The weakening gives the lower face a droopy appearance. The eye that is being influenced by a one-sided smile struggles to close.

Acute peripheral facial palsy of undetermined origin is another name for Bell’s palsy. At any age, it can happen. The precise reason has yet to be discovered.

Experts claim that the nerve on one side of the face that controls the muscles is enlarged and irritated. It could result from a reaction that happens after a viral infection.

Bell’s Palsy Symptoms

Bell’s palsy symptoms might include the following and appear suddenly:

  • On one side of your face, you could suddenly get modest weakness that develops into complete paralysis within hours or days.
  • Face drooping and the inability to make facial gestures like smiling or closing your eyes.
  • Drooling.
  • On the affected side, pain in the jaw area, in the ear, or behind the ear.
  • Sound sensitivity on the affected side is increased.
  • Headache.
  • A loss in taste.
  • Alterations in the quantity of saliva and tears you produce.

What Causes Bell’s Palsy?

Bell’s palsy has an unknown origin. In those with Bell’s palsy, the cranial nerve VII shows signs of swelling and inflammation.

Most scientists think the disease may be brought on by an old (dormant) viral infection. The most likely triggers include weakened immunity brought on by stress, lack of sleep, physical trauma, mild illnesses, or autoimmune diseases.

The Fallopian canal, a bone passageway via which the facial nerve goes to the side of the face, is put under pressure due to the swelling and inflammation of the facial nerve brought on by the infection, which limits the flow of blood and oxygen to the nerve cells.

When recovery is quick and the condition is minor, the myelin sheath is the only damaged part (the fatty covering that acts as insulation of nerve fibers).

Other medical diseases, such as brain tumors, strokes, myasthenia gravis, and Lyme disease, can also result in facial paralysis. Bell’s palsy might be the condition’s diagnosis if no particular cause exists.

How Is Bell’s Palsy Diagnosed?

The degree of weakness in your facial muscles will be assessed physically by your doctor first. Inquiries concerning your symptoms, including when they started or when you first noticed them, will also be asked of you.

While there isn’t a single lab test that your doctor can use to definitively determine if you have Bell’s palsy, they can utilize several tests to aid in making the diagnosis.

Other potential reasons for facial paralysis that might need to be treated, such as Guillain-Barré syndrome or Lyme disease, can be ruled out with the aid of these tests.

These tests may include the following:

  • Blood tests to determine whether a viral or bacterial infection is present.
  • Blood tests to look for illnesses like diabetes or others.
  • To examine the nerves in your face and rule out the potential of a stroke or brain tumor, imaging procedures like an MRI or CT scan are recommended.

If Lyme disease is suspected, a lumbar puncture may be followed by an electromyography (EMG) test, in which a physician inserts excellent wire electrodes into a muscle to assess any nerve damage to the muscles that regulate the face.

How Is Bell’s Palsy Treated?

Steroids are highly likely to be beneficial and can raise the likelihood that people with newly developed Bell’s palsy will recover facial nerve function.

In most cases, oral steroids should be taken as soon as symptoms appear, ideally within 72 hours, to maximize the likelihood of a successful face functional recovery. Some people with co-occurring disorders might not respond well to or be able to take steroid medications.

Steroids and antiviral medications may boost the likelihood that facial function may recover, albeit their value has not yet been conclusively proven. Pain can be reduced by analgesics such aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen.

People who use prescription medications should always consult their doctors before using any over-the-counter medications due to the possibility of drug interactions.

Eye protection is a critical component of treatment. The average ability of the eyelid to blink can be impaired by Bell’s palsy, leaving the eye vulnerable to irritation and dryness.

It’s crucial to keep the eye moist and shield it from objects and harm, especially at night. Eye patches and lubricating eye drops, such as artificial tears, eye ointments, or eye gels, are also helpful.

Other treatments like physical therapy, facial massage, or acupuncture can reduce the discomfort and function of the facial nerves.

How Long Does Bell’s Palsy Last?

The average recovery time is 9 months. However, it often takes longer. The facial weakness may occasionally last permanently.

  • If there is still no improvement after three weeks, go back to the doctor. Surgery may be necessary in some cases.
  • You may experience anxiety, tension, or depression due to Bell’s palsy. If it’s harming your mental health, talk to a doctor.

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