Bell's Palsy: A look at the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.
Bell's palsy is a sudden, inexplicable paralysis or weakening of the facial muscles. Over the next 48 hours, it suddenly gets worse. This disorder is brought on by a facial nerve injury (the 7th cranial nerve). On one side of the face or head, pain and discomfort are more common.
Regardless of age, anyone can develop Bell's palsy. Pregnant women and those with diabetes, the flu, a cold, or another upper respiratory condition are more likely to experience it. Before age 15 or after age 60, it is less frequent.
Bell's palsy is not thought to be permanent, but it can occasionally persist. Bell's palsy can be treated easily. Bell's palsy patients usually regain full facial strength and expression.
The symptoms of Bell's palsy typically emerge suddenly and reach their worst point within 48 to 72 hours. Some may experience minor but others may have their face become completely paralyzed.
In two weeks, symptoms start to get progressively better. Within three months, up to 80% of patients totally recover and exhibit no evidence of Bell's palsy.
Bell's palsy symptoms, in addition to facial drooping, include:
- Dry eyes
- Facial or ear pain
- Loss of taste
- Ringing in ears (tinnitus)
- Sensitivity to sounds
- Trouble speaking, eating or drinking
Bell's palsy is a condition that causes sudden weakness or paralysis of the muscles on one side of the face. While it is generally not considered a life-threatening condition, there are certain alarming factors that should prompt immediate medical attention.
One such factor is the sudden onset of severe symptoms, particularly if they are accompanied by other symptoms such as difficulty speaking, drooling, or drooping of the eyelid or mouth. These symptoms may indicate a more serious underlying condition, such as a stroke, and require urgent evaluation.
Another alarming factor is the presence of pain behind the ear or in the face, which can indicate inflammation or infection of the facial nerve. In some cases, this may require treatment with antibiotics or antiviral medications.
If the symptoms of Bell's palsy do not improve or worsen over time, this may be a sign of a more serious underlying condition, such as a tumor or nerve damage. In these cases, further evaluation and testing may be necessary to determine the cause of the symptoms and appropriate treatment.
Bell's palsy can typically be identified by your doctor after examining your symptoms. The diagnosis of Bell's palsy is not made using any particular testing. However, in order to rule out other disorders that may present with comparable symptoms and to assess the degree of nerve involvement or damage, your doctor may perform testing. These tests could consist of:
- The use of electromyography (EMG) to assess the degree of nerve involvement
- Blood tests to check for the presence of additional conditions like diabetes or Lyme disease
- To ascertain whether your symptoms are structural in nature, your doctor may order an MRI or a CT scan.
It's crucial that your doctor exclude any possibility of a stroke or tumor, which might produce symptoms resembling Bell's palsy.
Bell's palsy gets better on its own. However, for symptom alleviation and a quicker recovery, your doctor may advise one or more of these treatments:
- Prednisone and other oral corticosteroids reduce nerve swelling and may hasten the recovery of facial mobility. When you begin this medication within 48 hours of first recognising symptoms, it is most beneficial.
- Antiviral drugs, like acyclovir for herpes, may hasten recovery, but it's not known how much of a benefit they actually offer. Oral corticosteroids are the combination that makes this treatment most effective.
- The care of the eyes is crucial. Artificial tears and other eyedrops can relieve dry, itchy eyes. To protect the eye from irritants and injuries, you might need to wear an eye patch if your eyelid won't close.
- Decompression surgery, which relieves pressure on the nerve, is rarely done because it can permanently damage the facial nerve and cause hearing loss.
- For those who don't recover, functional face plastic surgery operations are available to help correct facial asymmetry and aid in eyelid closure.
If you get Bell's palsy, you could feel self-conscious about how your face appears. Thankfully, these symptoms get better over time. When symptoms first start to occur, consult a doctor. If you begin corticosteroid therapy within 48 hours of discovering symptoms, it can hasten healing. Additionally, your doctor can rule out any other, graver illnesses that might be causing your facial paralysis.