English 3 MIN READ 81 VIEWS May 13, 2024

Unlocking the Mystery: Understanding Bell’s Palsy and its Impact

Written By HealthKart
Medically Reviewed By Dr. Aarti Nehra

Bell’s palsy is a condition in which the muscles of the face are paralysed or weakened without a known cause. It develops unexpectedly and is aggravated in the next 48 hours. This disability is due to the fact that the facial nerve (the 7th cranial nerve) is affected but the exact cause is not known. In this condition, pain or discomfort typically occurs on one side of the face or head.

Bell’s palsy is predominantly seen in pregnant women and people with diabetes, influenza, common cold or other upper respiratory problems. It is less likely to happen before age 15 or after age 60.

One of the most common misconceptions is that Bell’s palsy is not permanent. However, there are some cases where it does not disappear. There is no known cure for the disease, though recovery typically begins 2 weeks to 6 months after the onset of the symptoms. Most people with Bell’s palsy fully regain their ability to move their facial muscles but in some cases the symptoms may persist.

What Causes Bell’s Palsy?

The cause of Bell’s palsy is not known. This means that the inflammation, directed by the body’s immune system, may be against the nerve, which controls the movement of the face. Bell’s palsy is sometimes associated with the following conditions: 

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Injury
  • Toxins
  • Lyme disease
  • Guillain-Barré syndrome
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Multiple sclerosis

The most common infection is, especially after a viral infection (a Herpes Simplex virus type-1 (HSV-1 virus) related to the cause of cold sores of the mouth ).

Symptoms of Bell’s Palsy

The symptoms of Bell’s palsy appear suddenly and may include:

  • The facial weakness which may range from mild to complete paralysis on one side of the face with the onset happening from hours to days.
  • Drooping face and difficulty in facial expressions, such as closing an eye or smiling
  • Drooling
  • The sound that gets on the affected side is perceived to be more sensitive
  • Headache
  • Loss of taste
  • Decrease or increase in the amount of tears and saliva produced
  • For the most part, bilateral involvement of the facial nerves is a rare occurrence.

Bell’s Palsy Diagnosis

Your healthcare provider usually diagnoses Bell’s palsy by your present signs and symptoms. No single test can be used to diagnose Bell’s palsy, while your healthcare provider may conduct tests to exclude other conditions that can lead to similar symptoms and to understand the extent of nerve involvement or damage. These tests may include:

  • Electromyography (EMG) assesses nerve involvement in the disease process
  • Blood testing is done to see if there is any other condition, such as diabetes or Lyme disease.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or Computed Tomography (CT) is used to detect structural problems that could be causing your symptoms.
  • Your doctor should rule out other conditions, such as a stroke or tumor, that can cause symptoms that resemble those of Bell’s palsy.

Bell’s Palsy Treatment

One commonly suggested treatment for Bell’s palsy is caring for the eyes by applying lubricants at night and while working on a computer. Eye care could involve eye drops during the day, eye ointment at bedtime, or a moisture chamber at night. This can prevent the cornea from getting scratched, which is one of the most essential things in managing Bell’s palsy.

The doctor will recommend another treatment for your condition, depending on the severity of your symptoms and your health record. Other treatment options include:

  • Steroids to reduce inflammation
  • One of the primary drugs used to treat viral infections is acyclovir
  • Either analgesics or moist heat to relieve pain
  • Physical therapy aims to stimulate the facial nerve.

Some people may opt for alternative therapies in the treatment of Bell’s palsy, but it has not been proven that they contribute to faster recovery. Such treatment may include:

  • Relaxation
  • Acupuncture
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Biofeedback training
  • Vitamin treatments include B12, B6, and zinc minerals.

Conclusion

Bell’s palsy is a complex condition which is diagnosed on clinical suspicion. The exact cause is unknown so far, though researchers look into several hypotheses, from viral infections to immune response. However, it is worth noting that although it has a relatively benign outcome, it can still significantly affect an individual’s quality of life. Therefore, early intervention and supportive care should be done. Further research is essential to obtain a more comprehensive knowledge about this disease, a better diagnosis, and finer treatment methods, resulting in better patient outcomes and less impact on those afflicted with Bell’s palsy.

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