Bell’s Palsy is the sudden weakness of muscles on one half of the face, causing the affected area to look droopy. Though this can be both alarming and embarrassing, it is not generally cause to panic. More often than not, the condition is temporary, but it is best to seek professional help as soon as possible. There may be an infection causing the symptoms that should be diagnosed and treated to avoid its spread or worsening of the paralysis. Advance Health and Wellness often has treatments available that can turn that half frown back upside down.
Since our facial nerve is so complex and has multiple functions, an injury or disruption in the jobs it is responsible for can lead to multiple issues. Symptoms vary from case to case and person to person and may include weakness of the facial nerve, twitching, or paralysis on one side of the face. Many times these symptoms suddenly appear and will usually reach their level of severity within two days. Significant, though not permanent, facial distortion is a typical occurrence.
Other symptoms may include: drooling, drooping of the eyelid and corners of the mouth, inability to taste, dryness in the eye or mouth, severely watery eye, pain or discomfort around the jaw and behind the ear, ringing in either or both of the ears, headache, loss of taste, increased sound sensitivity on the side experiencing the palsy, loss of balance or dizziness, and difficulty eating, drinking, or speaking.
Exact causes of Bell’s Palsy remain unknown, but there are some risk factors that seem to contribute to its appearance. A majority of people who experience the condition have diabetes or upper respiratory ailments such as the flu or a cold. Herpes simplex, which is the common cold-sore virus, or viral infections like meningitis, may also cause this disorder. It is thought that in reaction to these infections, the facial nerve becomes inflamed and then swells, causing pressure and restricting flow of oxygen and blood. This deficit causes the localized paralysis.
Men and women are equally affected by Bell’s Palsy, but age plays a large roll in someone’s likelihood of getting the condition. People over the age of 60 suffer attacks more frequently than any other age group.
There are some at-home treatments for this condition, such as medications with analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, or facial massage, which may give some minor relief to the nerve pain. However, since there may be an infection causing your symptoms, it is best to set up a consultation appointment before it has a chance to spread. Delaying or not seeking out treatment can also lead to permanent facial distortion, like a crooked smile or eyelid that will not close. These can ultimately require cosmetic surgery to fully correct.
Depending on the severity of your individual nerve damage, the length of time you experience Bell’s Palsy can vary. Many times symptoms can go away within two weeks, and the facial nerve may be back to normal functionality in 3 to 6 months. More severe cases can take longer to heal, and rarely, symptoms may reoccur.