Bell’s Palsy – Causes and Symptoms
One-sided weakness, paralysis and tingling of the facial muscles can be associated with Bell’s Palsy. The experience and symptoms can be confused with a stroke and can be frightening, prompting a call to a neurologist. This disorder of the facial nerves can affect females and males of all ages and is possibly associated with a viral infection such as herpes simplex. Sometimes it begins with pain in or behind the ear which then can be followed by paresthesia (tingling) and/or paralysis. The face appears drooping on one side and the person reports difficulty chewing, sipping from a straw, and whistling. Some people report changes in taste and hearing as well. Though alarming, 85% of patients recover completely within 3 months of onset. Some people, however, never totally recover leaving a slight unequal appearance to the face.
Bell’s Palsy – Diagnosis and Treatment
Paralysis and/or paresthesia in any area of the body require a neurological evaluation by a specialist. Appropriate tests such as MRI of the brain, electroencephalogram, and chemistry analysis should be ordered to rule out any other structural or metabolic problems. Prednisone is oftentimes prescribed to reduce inflammation in the nerves and oftentimes can diminish the progression of the paralysis in the face. In the elderly person, careful evaluation should consider the possibility of diabetes and/or hypertension when prescribing prednisone. On occasion, the eyelid is not able to close effectively increasing the possibility of the person’s injuring the cornea. Applying eye drops that are able to keep the moisture in the eye can prevent corneal abrasions, the most serious condition that may potentially harm vision.
Psychologically, the person with Bell’s Palsy can experience feelings of depression and anxiety because facial appearance is changed and noticed by others so readily. The person may want to withdraw from social activities and outings. Despite physical appearances, people should be encouraged to continue their normal activity and work schedules. Fortunately, this condition is not life-threatening and reassurance from others can encourage the person to continue their activities.