In the United States alone, an estimated 40,000 people are diagnosed with Bell's Palsy. While most commonly associated with a weakening or paralyzing of one side of the face, the disorder affects patients in more ways than just cosmetic. With this guide and your doctor's help, you will understand the causes, signs, and treatment options for this common neurological condition.
If a cranial nerve becomes damaged in some way, the nerve will cause swelling in and around the facial tissue. This damaged nerve and resulting swelling are the main causes of Bell's Palsy. However, a variety of issues could cause damage to the nerve.
In most cases, a damaged cranial nerve stems from a viral infection of sorts. HIV, viral meningitis, herpes simplex, and mononucleosis can all cause inflammation in the body, affecting your immune system. This increases the risk of damaged nerves and Ball's Palsy.
One common misconception is that Bell's Palsy is caused by strokes. Both Ball's Palsy and ischemic stroke weaken the muscles of the face, but one is not the cause of the other.
A drooping of the facial muscles on one side is the most common symptom, but patients with Bell's Palsy may experience one or more of the following, as well:
- Facial Weakness
- Muscle twitches in face
- Unable to make facial expressions
- Difficulty eating and drinking
If you are experiencing one or more of the above signs, do not panic. Bell's Palsy is not a life-threatening condition. Since it can affect your quality of life, a professional diagnosis is important.
Your doctor will perform a basic physical evaluation that may include blood tests to determine if your issues are stemming from Bell's Palsy. An MRI or CT scan may also be necessary to check for nerve damage in the face.
In most instances, Bell's Palsy will improve on its own within a few weeks, without any actual treatment. During this period, your doctor may suggest a few medications to improve your recovery.
If your doctor determines the condition is caused by a viral infection, you will need to take an antiviral medication. Corticosteroid drugs are also beneficial to reduce inflammation and swelling in the face.
Facial massage is helpful, as well, to reduce the discomfort that may arise due to weakened facial tissue. Your doctor may suggest working with a physical therapist to strengthen the facial muscles using various exercises.
Bell's Palsy may be a common condition, but most people do not fully understand it. With this guide, you will understand the causes, signs, and treatments for this disorder.