Bell’s palsy causes sudden weakness in your facial muscles. This makes half of your face appear to droop. Your smile is one-sided, and your eye on that side resists closing.Also known as facial paralysis, Bell’s palsy can hit people of any age, brought on by something as simple as common cold. Mercifully, however, it is a passing problem, meaning it disappears in a few months by itself even without much treatment. Though the exact cause remains unknown it’s believed to be caused by the swelling and inflammation of nerves that control facial muscles and may be a reaction that follows viral infection.Generally, this most common of all types of facial paralysis affects only one side of the face with the symptoms setting in rapidly and peaking in 48 hours. Bell’s palsy often causes significant facial distortion.
Most scientists believe that a viral infection such as viral meningitis or the common cold sore virus — herpes simplex– can cause the disorder when the facial nerve swells and becomes inflamed in reaction to the infection.Symptoms usually start to recede within a few weeks and patients recover completely in about six months. A small number of them, however, carry the symptoms for life. Rarely, does Bell’s palsy recur.In extreme cases the palsy may result in irreversible damage to facial nerves and misdirected regrowth of nerve fibers, resulting in involuntary contraction of certain muscles when you’re trying to move others (synkinesis) — for example, when you smile, the eye on the affected side may close.
There’s no specific test for Bell’s palsy. Your doctor will look at your face and ask you to move your facial muscles by closing your eyes, lifting your brow, showing your teeth and frowning, among other movements. If it’s not clear why you’re having the symptoms, your doctor may recommend other tests, including electrohyography (see Technology & Procedures).
Most people with Bell’s palsy recover fully — with or without treatment. But your doctor may suggest medications or physical therapy to help speed your recovery. In rare cases, plastic surgery may be needed to correct lasting facial nerve problems.
Medications: Should your doctor decide to treat the disease he may prescribe a calibrated course of Corticosteroids as they are powerful anti-inflammatory agents. Corticosteroids may work best if they’re started within several days of when your symptoms started. If your palsy is severe and is known to have been caused by a virus then your doctor may choose to put you on antiviral drugs to stop the progression of the infection. Since paralyzed muscles can shrink and shorten, causing permanent contractures, physical therapy involving massage and exercise of your facial muscles is often a preferred course for treating the condition.
Electromyography (EMG): This test can confirm the presence of nerve damage and determine its severity. An EMG measures the electrical activity of a muscle in response to stimulation and the nature and speed of the conduction of electrical impulses along a nerve.
Imaging scans X-ray imaging, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computerized tomography (CT) may be needed on occasion to rule out other possible sources of pressure on the facial nerve, such as a tumor or skull fracture.