Disease: Bell's palsy

Overview

Bell's palsy causes sudden, temporary weakness in your facial muscles. This makes half of your face appear to droop. Your smile is one-sided, and your eye on that side resists closing.

Bell's palsy, also known as facial palsy, can occur at any age. The exact cause is unknown. It's believed to be the result of swelling and inflammation of the nerve that controls the muscles on one side of your face. Or it might be a reaction that occurs after a viral infection.

For most people, Bell's palsy is temporary. Symptoms usually start to improve within a few weeks, with complete recovery in about six months. A small number of people continue to have some Bell's palsy symptoms for life. Rarely, Bell's palsy can recur.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of Bell's palsy come on suddenly and may include:

  • Rapid onset of mild weakness to total paralysis on one side of your face — occurring within hours to days
  • Facial droop and difficulty making facial expressions, such as closing your eye or smiling
  • Drooling
  • Pain around the jaw or in or behind your ear on the affected side
  • Increased sensitivity to sound on the affected side
  • Headache
  • A decrease in your ability to taste
  • Changes in the amount of tears and saliva you produce

In rare cases, Bell's palsy can affect the nerves on both sides of your face.

When to see a doctor

Seek immediate medical help if you experience any type of paralysis because you may be having a stroke. Bell's palsy is not caused by a stroke, but it can cause similar symptoms.

See your doctor if you experience facial weakness or drooping to determine the underlying cause and severity of the illness.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

Causes

Although the exact reason Bell's palsy occurs isn't clear, it's often related to exposure to a viral infection. Viruses that have been linked to Bell's palsy include the virus that causes:

  • Cold sores and genital herpes (herpes simplex)
  • Chickenpox and shingles (herpes zoster)
  • Infectious mononucleosis (Epstein-Barr)
  • Cytomegalovirus infections
  • Respiratory illnesses (adenovirus)
  • German measles (rubella)
  • Mumps (mumps virus)
  • Flu (influenza B)
  • Hand-foot-and-mouth disease (coxsackievirus)

The nerve that controls your facial muscles passes through a narrow corridor of bone on its way to your face. In Bell's palsy, that nerve becomes inflamed and swollen — usually related to a viral infection. Besides facial muscles, the nerve affects tears, saliva, taste and a small bone in the middle of your ear.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

Diagnosis

There's no specific test for Bell's palsy. Your doctor will look at your face and ask you to move your facial muscles by closing your eyes, lifting your brow, showing your teeth and frowning, among other movements.

Other conditions — such as a stroke, infections, Lyme disease and tumors — can also cause facial muscle weakness, mimicking Bell's palsy. If the cause of your symptoms isn't clear, your doctor may recommend other tests, including:

  • Electromyography (EMG). This test can confirm the presence of nerve damage and determine its severity. An EMG measures the electrical activity of a muscle in response to stimulation and the nature and speed of the conduction of electrical impulses along a nerve.
  • Imaging scans. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computerized tomography (CT) may be needed on occasion to rule out other possible sources of pressure on the facial nerve, such as a tumor or skull fracture.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

Complications

A mild case of Bell's palsy normally disappears within a month. Recovery from a more severe case involving total paralysis varies. Complications may include:

  • Irreversible damage to your facial nerve
  • Abnormal regrowth of nerve fibers, resulting in involuntary contraction of certain muscles when you're trying to move others (synkinesis) — for example, when you smile, the eye on the affected side may close
  • Partial or complete blindness of the eye that won't close due to excessive dryness and scratching of the clear protective covering of the eye (cornea)

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

Alternative medicine

Although there's little scientific evidence to support the use of alternative medicine for people with Bell's palsy, some people with the condition may benefit from the following:

  • Acupuncture. Placing thin needles into a specific point in your skin helps stimulate nerves and muscles, which may offer some relief.
  • Biofeedback training. By teaching you to use your thoughts to control your body, you may help gain better control over your facial muscles.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

Lifestyle and home remedies

Home treatment may include:

  • Protecting the eye you can't close. Using lubricating eyedrops during the day and an eye ointment at night will help keep your eye moist. Wearing glasses or goggles during the day and an eye patch at night can protect your eye from getting poked or scratched.
  • Taking over-the-counter pain relievers. Aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) may help ease your pain.
  • Doing your physical therapy exercises. Massaging and exercising your face according to your physical therapist's advice may help relax your facial muscles.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

Risk factors

Bell's palsy occurs more often in people who:

  • Are pregnant, especially during the third trimester, or who are in the first week after giving birth
  • Have an upper respiratory infection, such as the flu or a cold
  • Have diabetes

Recurrent attacks of Bell's palsy are rare. But in some of these cases, there's a family history of recurrent attacks — suggesting a possible genetic predisposition to Bell's palsy.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

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