Bell’s Palsy is a disease, which causes a sudden, temporary weakness in the facial muscles. It is facial paralysis that makes patients unable to control his facial muscles on either side of his face. This disease can occur at any age.
There is no known reason for its cause. However, the disease is believed to be caused because of swelling and inflammation of the nerve that controls the muscles on the affected side. The risk factors include diabetes and upper respiratory tract infection. This is caused due to the malfunction of the cranial nerve.
Bell’s Palsy affects millions of people worldwide. For most of them, the disease is temporary. The symptoms usually start to improve within a few weeks from the first appearance. The complete recovery takes close to six months. There are a few people who continue to have the Bell’s Palsy for their complete life. The disease rarely affects someone twice. People who recurrently face the disease are often found to be a victim of diabetes or viral infections.
People, often, unknowingly interpret the disease as a stroke. It, however, is not a stroke. A stroke affecting the facial muscles would also affect the body muscles and cause weakness in other parts of the body too.
The causes that trigger Bell's Palsy in the human body are still unknown. Often researchers associate it with an exposure to a viral infection. The facial nerve passes through a narrow bony area in the skull and when it swells, it pushes against the hard surface of the skull when there is a viral infection. Apart from the facial muscles, the disease also affects tears, saliva, taste and a small bone positioned in the middle of the ear. At other times, researchers also associate it with physical damage to the facial nerve that causes a similar swelling of the face.
Mostly the disease occurs due to viral infections. The infections play an important role in the development of the disease. The viruses that are linked to the development of the disease are:
It has often been noticed that Bell ’s palsy follows a pattern when affecting people. These include:
As mentioned before, the disease rarely affects the same person recurrently. If there is a family history of the disease recurring repeatedly, it suggests a genetic trait or predisposition of the disease.
There are a few symptoms which constantly recur when Bell’s Palsy strikes a person. These symptoms include:
Of all the symptoms drooling and facial weakness, reach their peak in a day or two. These symptoms then begin to reduce, which helps people to recover within a couple of weeks. Complete recovery happens within 3 months. Some of the patients may show neurological symptoms, which are defined as mononeuritis. This is what causes the tingling, headache, memory and balance problems. Other symptoms, which are unexplained by the facial nerve dysfunction, are ipsilateral limb weakness, ipsilateral limb paresthesias, and clumsiness.
Bell’s Palsy is a disease which requires the diagnosis of exclusion. As there is no specific test for the disease, the doctor observes the diseased person’s face and asks him to move various parts of his face, including the facial muscles, for instance, closing the eyes, lifting the brow, showing the teeth and various other movements. Observing these parts, the doctor eliminates various other possibilities and tries to determine a reasonable cause for the disease.
As the disease is treated on the basis of exclusion, there is no routine testing or imaging test that can help in the diagnosis process. However, the degree of the nerve damage can be assessed using the House-Brackmann score. There are many studies, which have revealed that 45% of patients are not referred to a specialist. This simply suggests that the disease requires a straightforward diagnosis and is easy to manage.
As there is no particular diagnosis in the treatment of the disease, doctors make use of the differential diagnosis technique in the treatment of Bell’s Palsy. In differential diagnosis, doctors distinguish a particular disease from other diseases that present similar clinical features. The technique finds its usage while diagnosing a particular disease to eliminate imminently life-threatening conditions.
During the differential diagnosis of Bell’s Palsy, there are various diseases which are easily eliminated such as a stroke. However, it is very difficult to eliminate the involvement of the facial nerve with the herpes zoster virus. In order to understand the major difference between the two, one must look for the small blisters on the external ear.
The Lyme’s disease also produces facial palsy, which occurs at the same time as the classic erythema migraine rash. Other times, it occurs at a later stage. In cases where the Lyme disease is common to the Bell’s Palsy disease, it may lead to facial palsy.
As mentioned before, a vast majority of people have shown improvement in health and recovered completely from the disease with and at certain times, without treatment. There is no designated treatment for the disease. Doctors may suggest various medications or physical therapies that help to speed up the recovery of the patient. The medicines may vary from doctor to doctor. However, these medications may differ in accordance with the doctor. Surgery is rarely a solution or option in case of Bell’s Palsy.
Having said that, there are various procedures for the treatment of Bell’s Palsy. They include usage of the following:
Bell’s Palsy disease often confuses people leading them to believe various myths. The most prominent myths include:
Myth #1: Bell’s Palsy Causes Permanent Facial Paralysis
Bell’s Palsy is a form of temporary facial paralysis. The facial nerve that is on one side of the face is disrupted. Due to this, the message, which is received from the brain, is interfered. However, in a majority of cases, the disease is temporary. The paralyzed area of the face starts to cure within a few weeks and within three to six months; the paralysis completely disappears on its own. In a few percentages of cases, the nerve function does not return to normal. The nerve function may return but the full function does not return.
Myth #2: There is No Treatment Which Ensures the Treatment of Bell’s Palsy
There are various techniques which are available for the treatment of Bell’s Palsy. As mentioned above, the disease can be defeated using steroids, antivirals, physiotherapy, surgery and alternative medicinal therapies. These are the most effective treatments for the disease. Apart from this, selective neurolysis and botox can be used to treat the disease.
Selective neurolysis involves releasing a platysma muscle downward and reducing the activity. The selective neurolysis is very useful for a patient to regain his ability to smile. The botox treatment is a non-surgical treatment. When injected by a nerve expert, it helps patients to regain some symmetry into their faces and improve their facial appearance.
Myth #3: Prognosis of the Disease is not Very Good
There are many people who are under the impression that prognosis for Bell’s Palsy is not very good and hence they hesitate in using it for the treatment. However, doctors state that prognosis is generally very good for the patients.
After making use of the prognosis method, a person starts to improve on his symptoms within the first two weeks. The duration for complete recovery remains the same, i.e. three to six months.
Ans. Usually, Bell's Palsy affects adults. It is not as common for children below the age of 12-14 years to contract the disease. In rare cases, children can also be affected. For children, homeopathy is the safest course of action.
Ans. In most of the cases, the disease affects only one side of the face as only one facial nerve is affected. In rare cases, though, it is possible for both the sides of the face to be paralyzed.
Ans. There is no direct link with Bell’s Palsy with the diet. However, in the duration of the disease, there are various types of food, which the patient should try to avoid, such as: