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Named after Sir Charles Bell, a famous Scottish surgeon, who discovered the difference between sensory nerves and motor nerves in the spinal cord, Bell’s Palsy also known by the name Facial paralysis or Facial Palsy, is a sudden temporary weakness/paralysis of the nerve that controls the facial muscles, causing the one side of face to droop. The smile becomes one-sided and the eye on that side resists closing.
As per the current status of Bell’s Palsy in India, 20 people per lakh of the population have this condition. In some cases, cerebral palsy which is a neurological disorder that affects the muscle movement and coordination can also result in facial palsy. There is no specific reason or age for its occurrence. It most cases it’s temporary but if not taken care of, can lead to permanent damage. So let’s understand its causes, symptoms and treatments in detail.
Though no one till today is able to map out the exact cause of Bell’s palsy, some of the likely ones are below;
● A viral syndrome
● Swelling and inflammation due to some kind of trauma on 7th cranial or facial nerve that goes through a narrow gap of bone from the brain to the face.
● Birth defect
● Skull fracture or face injury
● Tooth Extractions
● Head or neck tumour
● Middle ear infection or other ear damage
● Lyme disease, a bacterial disease transmitted to humans by a tick bite
● Ramsay-Hunt Syndrome, a viral reactivation that affects the facial nerve
● Autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Guillain-Barré syndrome
Bell’s palsy symptoms are sudden and usually appears in the morning.
1. Sudden paralysis/weakness in one side of the face ( rarely on both sides)
2. Saliva drooling and crocodile tears
3. Impaired sensation of taste or hearing
4. Drooping of the mouth to the affected side
5. Difficulty making facial expressions, such as closing your eye, smiling, chewing or drinking
6. Pain around the jaw or in or behind the ear
8. Slurred speech
9. Hypersensitivity to sound on the affected side
10. Slight swelling or stiffness
There is a thin line of difference between Bell’s palsy and facial palsy, the first one is a lower motor neuron paralysis while the later is an upper motor neuron paralysis. The root cause of facial paralysis can be determined while Bell’s palsy is completely sudden and unknown.
Its symptoms usually start to improve within a few weeks, with complete recovery of Bell’s palsy in about six months. Only in rare cases does it reoccur or stays for life. Bell’s palsy treatment includes a variety of methods like;
● Slight massage on face
● Facial exercises to stimulate facial nerve
● Wearing an eyepatch
● Eye drops to prevent dryness in eyes due to continuous tears
● Treating the hormone called prednisolone within 72 hours of onset to reduce the symptoms and to speed up recovery.
● Physical therapy to massage and exercise the paralyzed muscles that can cause permanent contractures.
● Electrotherapy – The electrical impulses emitted by facial nerve when gets damaged, the muscles lose their tone and shape, with electrotherapy devices, those electrical impulses can be mimicked to restore the lost tone shape of the face.