Health

Bell’s Palsy – Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

✅ Evidence Based Article

Bell’s Palsy is also called idiopathic facial paralysis. It is caused by weakness on one side of the face.

It makes half of the face to appear to sag. If you smile, your smile is one-sided, and your eye on that side opposes shutting. The condition can appear at any age.

The precise cause of Bell’s palsy is anonymous. Some people believe it is caused by swelling and soreness of the nerve that joy shifts the muscles on one side.

To some individuals, the condition is transient. The symptoms start to advance within a few weeks, with extensive regaining in about six months. Some people may continue to have the condition for life. However, Bell’s palsy is a rear condition.

Bell’s Palsy Symptoms

  1. Quick start of minor weakness to total paralysis on one side of the face. It occurs within hours to days.
  2. Patients find facial slouch and difficulty making facial expressions, such as closing one eye, winking or smiling improbable.
  3. Slavering
  4. Aching around the jaw or in or around your ear or eye on the affected face side.
  5. Amplified sensitivity on the affected side.
  6. Severe headache.
  7. Reduced taste ability.
  8. Amount of tears and saliva produced changes.
  9. In some individual though rear, it affects the nerves on both sides of the face.

When should you see a Doctor?

The condition might not last long, but you need to seek medical attention. If you experience any paralysis, book an appointment with your doctor.

Bell’s palsy is different from a stroke. Neither is it caused by it, but it can cause similar symptoms.

It is advisable to see your doctor if you experience any facial weakness or sagging to carry out some examinations to determine the prime cause and sternness of the condition.

Don’t wait for a whole month for the situation to correct itself. You might think it is a Bell’s palsy yet it is a stroke.

Bell’s Palsy Causes

As mentioned earlier, the precise cause of Bell’s palsy has never been identified.

However, it is often linked with exposure to a viral infection. The viruses that have been linked to Bell’s palsy include:

  • Cold sores and genital herpes.
  • Chickenpox and shingles.
  • Infectious mononucleosis.
  • Cytomegalovirus infectious.
  • Respiratory illnesses.
  • German measles.
  • mumps
  • Flu
  • Hand-foot and mouth disease.
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Nerves that control the facial muscles pass via a narrow corridor of bone on its way to the face. In Bell’s palsy, that nerve becomes tender and swollen. The muscles also affect the tears, saliva, taste and a small bone in the middle of the ear.

Risks Factors for Bell’s Palsy

The threat of developing the condition increases if you:

  • Are pregnant
  • Have diabetes
  • Have a lung infection
  • Have a family history of Bell’s palsy

How is the condition Diagnosed?

There is no set procedure to diagnose Bell’s palsy. If you experience the condition, visit your doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor will take time to look at your face and ask you to move your facial muscles by either winking, closing your eyes, smiling, or frowning, among other movements.

Some of the conditions that cause facial muscles weakness, mimicking Bell’s palsy include but not limited to stroke, infections, Lyme disease, and tumors. However, the cause of the symptoms is not clear. If the signs are not clear, your doctor may recommend other tests such as: –

Electromyography (EMG)

This test is somehow compelling. It confirms the presence of nerve damage and establishes its brutality. The test measures the electrical activity of a muscle in response to stimulus and the nature and quickness of the conduction of electrical instincts alongside a nerve.

Imaging Tests

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or Computerized Tomography (CT) mayhap required on certain occasions to discard other probable sources of pressure on the facial nerves for example tumor or skull fracture.

Treatment

A significant number of people who have experienced the condition have recovered fully – with or without treatment.

There is no size-fits-all treatment for the situation, but your doctor may advise medications or physical exercise to hasten your recovery. Some doctors may suggest for surgery, but it’s a rare option for Bell’s palsy.

Medication

The most popular drugs used to correct Bell’s palsy include;

1.Corticosteroids

Steroids are widely known for their use by bodybuilders. However, a corticosteroid is used in treating Bell’s palsy. Steroids such as prednisone are very dominant anti-inflammatory agents. They can minimize the puffiness of the facial nerve and fit perfectly well within the bony corridor that surrounds it.

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They produce the best results if they are started within several days of when your symptoms manifest. Don’t take days to see your doctor once you start experiencing Bell’s palsy symptoms. The soon you start taking the corticosteroids the better.

2.Antiviral Drugs

The task of antivirals remains disconcerted up to date. The drugs alone have not shown any effect paralleled to placebo. But, once the antivirals are added to steroids, they are possibly beneficial for some people with Bell’s palsy. However, this is still not proved.

Sometimes valacyclovir is given in conjunction with prednisone in people with severe facial palsy.

Physical Therapy

Paralyzed muscles are very dangerous. They can contract and shorten, causing permanent contractures. Your doctor may recommend physical therapy. The physical therapist can even teach you how to massage and exercise your facial muscles to avoid this condition from occurring.

In the first couple of days to a week after the symptoms start showing, the therapist will assess your situation, including:

1.Look at your medical past and talk about any earlier surgery or health conditions.

2.Evaluate when your present symptoms started and whether they are getting worse or better with time.

3.Conduct a physical assessment, aiming at pinpointing the patterns of weakness that are caused by Bell palsy. Some of the assessments include:

  • Moving the eyebrows
  • Closing of the eyes
  • Ability to smile
  • Ability to use the lips in a wrinkle
  • Ability to suck the cheeks between the teeth.
  • Raising of the upper lip.
  • Raising and lowering of the lower lip.

After assessing your condition, your physical therapist will instantly:

  • Couch you on how to protect your face and your eyes.
  • Train you on how to cope with your daily life functions while you have the conditions.
  • Explain the anticipated path to recovery so that you are aware of the signs and symptoms of recovery.
  • Monitor the progress, and ascertain whether you need to be referred to a specialist if the improvement is not being made. If the situation worsens, he can recommend for surgery.

The priority is given to your eye. The incapability to fully and quickly close your eyes makes the eye susceptible to injury from dryness and debris.

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The debris can scratch the cornea and can permanently hurt your vision. Your therapist will train you how to protect your eye and keep it safe. The eye is one of the most subtle body organs.

Surgery

Over the past couple of years, decompression surgery was used to relieve the pressure on the facial nerve by cutting and opening the bony passage that the nerve passes over.

Nowadays, decompression surgery is no longer endorsed. Facial nerve injury and Eternal hearing loss are possible risks associated with this surgery.

Some surgeons use electrical stimulation as part of an advanced surgical technique to treat Bell’s palsy. They arouse the patients damaged facial nerve with an electric current, helping to jump-start the nerve to reinstate advanced facial movement more effectively.

In exceptional cases, plastic surgery may be needed to correct lasting facial nerve snags.

Lifestyle and Home Treatment

Home treatment may include:

  1. The priority is protecting your eyes. You are given lubricating eyedrops during the day and the eye ointment at night to help you keep your eye wet. Wearing sunglasses or goggles during the day and eye patch at night protects the eye from getting poked or rubbed.
  2. Taking counter relievers. If you are experiencing severe pain on the face, use drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen to relieve the pain.
  3. Physical Therapies. Massaging and exercising your face as per your physical therapists’ advice may help relax your facial muscles. Do not do your things, work as per your therapist instructions.

The Bottom Line

If you start experiencing some of Bell’s palsy symptoms, start by seeing your family doctor. If it is severe, you can be referred instantly to a neurologist.

For you to book for an appointment, make sure you have written down all the symptoms you are experiencing to avoid telling a different story to the neurologist. Specialists such as Physiotherapists, Neurologists, General Practitioner, and Emergency Medicine Doctors work around the clock to make sure your condition is corrected.