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01/15/2022 Daniella Johnson
Bell's palsy is a non-progressive neurological disorder of one of the facial nerves. Facial muscles are referred to as craniofacial muscles that comprise a group of 20 flat skeletal muscles. In the case of Bell’s palsy people experience a temporary weakness or paralysis of the muscles in the face. This can occur when the nerve that controls your facial muscles becomes inflamed, swollen, or compressed leading to paralysis.
Bell’s palsy is named after Scottish anatomist Charles Bell (who first described the condition). This will lead the face to droop or become stiff. People might face difficulty in smiling or closing their eye on the affected side. This can happen suddenly and people feel they are not able to control their facial muscles. The symptoms may be temporary and usually cure in a few weeks.
Although Bell’s palsy can occur at any age, it commonly affects people between ages 16 and 60. Approximately 40,000 individuals as per the National Organization of Rare Diseases (NORD) are diagnosed with Bell's palsy in the United States each year.
Bell’s palsy occurs due to the swelling and compression of the seventh cranial nerve. This results in facial weakness or paralysis. If the facial nerve is inflamed, and gets sandwiched between cheekbone and skin, or may pinch in the narrow gap of bone from the brain to the face. This might lead to the protective covering of the nerve being damaged and the signals from the brain to the muscles in the face are interrupted. This leads to weakness in the facial nerves or paralysis.
The swelling of the facial nerve could be linked to viral or bacterial infections such as:
Stress is also a major reason to weaken the immune system of the body that may affect the functions of various nerves and muscles of the body. The affected functions of the facial muscles may cause Bell’s palsy due to stress.
A mild case of Bell's palsy would usually disappear within a month with in-home treatments. But, recovery from a severe case involving total paralysis may include various complications:
The severity of the symptoms of Bell’s palsy can vary from mild weakness to total paralysis. In a more severe cae the facial nerve is exposed to more inflammation and often leads to paralysis. The more severe the case, the longer it takes for the nerve to heal and regain function.
Sometimes, you may develop symptoms of Bell’s palsy 1 to 2 weeks after you have a:
The initial symptom usually is pain behind one of the ears later causing the weakness or paralysis of that side of the face. Other symptoms include:
You are at a high risk of developing Bell’s palsy if you:
Doctors may run various tests to check for viral or bacterial infection as well as use MRI, Electromyography (EMG), X-rays, or CT scans to check the nerves in your face. Doctors will also check if any other facial nerve is damaged apart from the facial nerve.
In mild cases, the symptoms of Bell’s palsy may improve without treatment. But, it is important to treat Bell’s palsy within 3 days of the onset of the symptoms for quick recovery. Usually, the symptoms subside even without treatment but it can take a few weeks or months for the muscles in your face to regain their normal strength. Medical professionals follow a strict regime for quick recovery.
Some useful exercises are:
Many people confuse Bell’s palsy with stroke as the symptoms are similar. Various actors like Angelina Jolie have suffered from Bell’s palsy and have shared their experiences for better recovery. She received acupuncture treatment which helped in quick and full recovery. People suffering from Bell’s palsy recover in time and usually do not cause long-term complications. It is important to combine medication with regular exercise for a speedy recovery.
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If you or anyone you know is suffering from neurological problems, our expert providers at Specialty Care Clinics will take care of your health and help you recover.