Bell’s palsy, also known as idiopathic facial paralysis, is a form of temporary facial paralysis. This facial palsy condition plagues people of all ethnicities, races, and ages. While the exact cause is yet to be discovered, this condition occurs when facial nerves are swollen, inflamed or compressed. Read on to learn more about Bell’s palsy.
What is Bell’s palsy?
Bell’s palsy is characterized by temporary paralysis of the muscles on one side of the face. The facial palsy condition occurs when facial nerves become inflamed or compressed. On observation, the face affected by Bell’s Palsy has one side appearing stiff or droopy. There might be difficulty in some functions, such as smiling, chewing, eating, closing the eye, and talking. Bell’s palsy usually subsides within a few weeks to a month.
Bell’s palsy is named after a Scottish anatomist and surgeon named Charles Bell. Approximately two hundred years ago, he studied the facial nerve and its innervations on the muscles of the face and was able to describe the condition.
While Bell’s palsy is primarily temporary, it can occur within hours, days or overnight, with afflicted individuals mistaking the facial palsy for a stroke. People between the ages of sixteen to sixty are prone to develop such a condition.
What are the leading causes of Bell’s palsy?
The exact cause of Bell’s palsy is unidentified; however medical researchers believe the existence of a previously dormant viral infection triggers the condition. The viruses or bacteria linked to triggering Bell’s palsy include the following.
- Genital herpes virus (herpes simplex virus)
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- Epstein Barr virus
- Lyme disease, a bacterial infection, is caused by infected ticks ( Lyme borreliosis).
- Chickenpox and shingles virus (herpes zoster virus).
- Adenovirus is responsible for respiratory diseases.
- Coxsackievirus (Hand-foot-and-mouth disease).
- Influenza B virus
- Mumps virus
Experts believe that these viral and bacterial infections are triggered by something that triggers the onset of Bell’s palsy. Potential triggers include stress, underlying illnesses, sleep deprivation, physical trauma and autoimmune effects. It’s believed that the facial nerve lines a narrow bony passage into the face. When the nerve becomes inflamed and swollen, tears, saliva and taste functions are also affected.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, inflamed facial nerves have reduced blood flow and oxygen to the nerve cells. The nerve and nerve cell damage could be responsible for the paralysis of the facial muscles. The National Organization for Rare Disorders also stated that some individuals might have a genetic predisposition to develop Bell’s palsy.
Symptoms of Bell’s palsy
Some of the symptoms of Bell’s palsy include the following.
- Facial weakness and paralysis
- Facial drooping and difficulty with facial expressions and function.
- Increased sound sensitivity on the affected side (Hyperacusis)
- Loss of taste
- Poor eyelid function
- Blurry vision
- Ocular pain and discomfort
- Decreased tearing
- Distortion of the face while smiling
- Inability to raise an eyebrow on the affected side
- Numbness of cheek and mouth
- Ear aches (otalgia)
How long does Bell’s palsy last?
Bell’s palsy symptoms usually begin to improve in two weeks; however, complete revision may take about three to six months for the face to return to normal. Facial palsy sometimes affects both facial nerves in some rare cases. The symptoms might persist for life in a small number of individuals, so it’s crucial to consult the doctor if symptoms persist. Bell’s palsy symptoms appear suddenly and take forty-eight to seventy-two hours to reach maximum severity.
The NHS states that if there are no signs of improvement after three weeks, consult your doctor, as some cases might require treatment with surgery.
Is Bell’s palsy caused by stress?
Some sources note that stress weakens the immune system, making the body’s systems less functional. As a result of inefficient body functioning, conditions like facial palsy or Bell’s palsy arise. Stress could also lead to vascular spasms, affecting the proper blood supply to the nerves. As for individuals already with Bell’s palsy, stress could extend the recovery process.
Is having Bell’s palsy serious?
Bell’s palsy causes drooping on one or both sides of the face. While there’s temporary paralysis and loss of facial function due to an affected facial nerve, the condition isn’t so serious. It takes a few weeks to months to resolve on its own. For most of it, Bell’s palsy leaves on its own and rarely afflicts the same individual again. Although it is unusual to get Bell’s palsy more than once in a lifetime, it can happen, especially if you have a family history of the condition.
Is Bell’s palsy curable?
There are several types of treatments that can help you restore the effective functioning of your facial muscle. Prominent among such treatments is the injection of Botulinum Toxin Type A offered by Dr Nina Bal of the facial sculpting clinic. Injection of Botulinum Toxin Type A effectively treats bell’s palsy. Botulinum toxin is a minimally invasive treatment that effectively restores facial symmetry in chronic or acute Bell’s palsy.
Botulinum Toxin is derived from a protein secreted by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. This toxin blocks electrical impulses that cause facial muscle contraction. The injection may be placed only on the affected area, only on the unaffected area or on both sides.
Botulinum Toxin treatment is a quick and effective treatment. It creates great relief from the discomfort and symptoms of Bell’s palsy. You will notice a reduction in muscular action within 12-18 hours after the injection. You should experience maximum results by the end of the first week after the treatment.
To get your Bell’s Palsy treated by Dr Nina, you need to book an appointment for a consultation. She will access your condition to determine an effective personalised treatment.
Is Bell’s palsy dangerous?
Bell’s palsy isn’t dangerous or life-threatening. Although the symptoms could be frustrating, hindering the ability to speak, eat or sleep and interfering with one’s appearance.
Bell’s palsy recovery signs
Recovery signs include a full range of motion and functionality of the face, especially the initially affected side. Most patients show complete recovery within six weeks, while some cases could take as long as nine months. There could be residual damages and sequelae development in a more extended healing period. The rule of thumb is that the earlier the recovery begins, the lesser chance of developing permanent sequelae or residual damages.
Patients who show recovery signs within the first three weeks are more likely to recover completely. Bell’s palsy recurrence rate is between 4-14 per cent. Thirty-six per cent of patients experience a recurrence on the same side of the face as before.
Bell’s palsy eye treatment
Treatment for Bell’s palsy-related eye issues includes:
- A ten-day course of steroid medicine
- Eye drops and ointments to prevent dryness of the affected eye(s)
- A surgical tape to aid with closing the eye at bedtime.
Prednisolone might be administered. If so, treatment with prednisolone should commence within the first three days of observing the symptoms. In children, Bell’s palsy is rare but could still occur. That said, most make it to full recovery without treatment.
Is Bell’s palsy contagious?
Facial palsy, including Bell’s palsy itself, isn’t contagious. That being said, the underlying viral or bacterial diseases that could trigger the condition could be contacted. For instance, herpes or Ramsay Hunt syndrome could be contagious, so avoid contact with sores, bumps or blisters.
Can Bell’s palsy lead to a stroke?
According to research published by PubMed, patients with Bell’s palsy have a higher risk of stroke than the general population.
Bell’s palsy vs stroke
Facial palsy is sometimes mistaken for stroke, they are different. A stroke is caused by a blood clot that stops blood flow to the brain or a brain blood vessel rupture.
Symptoms of stroke sometimes include facial weakness. Strokes could also develop swiftly in a matter of seconds to minutes. While Bell’s palsy occurs quickly also, it’s not as sudden as a stroke as it could take several hours to days.
Difference between Bell’s palsy and facial paralysis
Facial paralysis is a condition describing the paralysis of facial muscles. The term generally connotes the inability to move one or both sides of the face. Facial nerve injuries or trauma is responsible for facial palsy. Facial paralysis could also result from infections, tumours and other diseases.
Bell’s palsy is the most common type of facial paralysis characterized by facial nerve inflammation. This condition is likely triggered by underlying viral diseases such as herpes simplex virus, known to cause cold sores.
Patients under medication for facial paralysis should not refrain from their treatment. Forgoing the therapy could lead to facial paralysis symptoms that might last a lifetime. On the other hand, Bell’s palsy patients could regain complete facial function without surgery or permanent sequelae or damage.
Bell’s palsy is the most common form of facial paralysis. Although it’s rarely seen in children, it could affect any individual. While this condition could end on its own, it’s essential to consult with a doctor if the symptoms extend beyond three weeks. Avoid stress and contact with specific diseases that could trigger the condition. Some of these diseases are transmitted as sexually transmitted diseases, STDs.