What is Bell’s Palsy?
Bell’s palsy is a temporary weakness that occurs on one side of the facial muscles. The side of the face affected by Bell’s palsy will usually look droopy. Generally, this condition occurs in pregnant women, people with diabetes, and HIV.
Damaged nerves in the face will have an impact on the sense of taste and the way the body produces tears and saliva. Generally, Bell’s palsy comes on suddenly and gets better in a matter of weeks.
Bell’s palsy will make half of the face appear drooping. The smile can only be one-sided, and the eye on the affected side refuses to close. This condition is also known as acute peripheral facial paralysis of unknown cause, and can occur at any age.
The exact cause is unknown. However, many experts believe this condition is the result of swelling and inflammation of the nerves that control the muscles on one side of the face. Or maybe a reaction that occurs after a viral infection.
Bell’s Palsy Risk Factors
The risk factor for Bell’s Palsy was found to be an association between migraine and weakness in the face and limbs. A study conducted in 2015 revealed that people who suffer from migraines may be at a higher risk of developing Bell’s Palsy.
In addition, Bell’s Palsy is more common in:
- People aged 15-60 years.
- Those with diabetes or upper respiratory disease.
- Pregnant women, especially in the third trimester.
- Have an upper respiratory infection, such as the flu or a cold
Recurrent attacks of Bell’s palsy are rare. However, in some cases, there is a family history of recurrent attacks, suggesting that Bell’s palsy may have a genetic predisposition.
Causes of Bell’s Palsy
Until now the cause of Bell’s Palsy is not known with certainty. However, this condition is thought to occur because the nerves that control facial muscles are compressed or disturbed. In addition, paralysis is also caused by inflammation of a viral infection, it is estimated that one of the viruses that causes Bell’s palsy is the herpes virus.
Please note that Bell’s palsy is not associated with stroke. The following are some of the causes of Bell’s palsy on the face:
- Hereditary facial paralysis, this condition occurs in children who are born with weakness or paralysis of the face.
- Injuries due to accidents, occur due to a tear in the chin or a fracture in the skull.
- Injury due to surgery, this condition generally occurs during parotid gland surgery.
Meanwhile, several viral infectious diseases that are suspected to be related to Bell’s palsy are:
- Herpes simplex.
- Chickenpox and shingles.
- Infectious mononucleosis (Epstein-Barr).
- Cytomegalovirus infection.
- Respiratory disease (adenovirus).
- German measles (rubella).
- Mumps (mumps virus).
- Flu (flu B).
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorder and Stroke, many experts believe that something can trigger an inactive viral infection, essentially evoking and triggering Bell’s palsy. If you’re stressed or have recently been sick, that could be a potential trigger. Likewise with recent physical trauma or even lack of sleep. Autoimmune conditions can also be another trigger.
The facial nerve, which reacts to infection by swelling, can cause pressure in the bony canal (fallopian tube) that the facial nerve travels to the side of the face. Inflammation of the facial nerve can reduce the flow of blood and oxygen to the nerve cells. Damage to these cranial nerves and nerve cells can cause paralysis of the facial muscles.
In most cases of Bell’s palsy, this paralysis of one side of the face is usually completely reversible. For that, you should contact a doctor to understand the condition experienced.
Symptoms of Bell’s Palsy
Bell’s Palsy causes different symptoms for each sufferer. Paralysis that occurs on one side of the face can be divided into two types, namely:
- Partial paralysis (mild muscle weakness).
- Complete paralysis (no movement at all, but this is rare).
Bell’s palsy also affects the mouth and eyelids of the sufferer, so that these two parts will be difficult to open and close. Here are the symptoms that Bell’s palsy should be aware of:
- Ear pain on the paralyzed side of the face.
- The affected ear is more sensitive to sound.
- Ringing in one or both ears.
- Decrease or change in the sense of taste.
- The part of the mouth that is affected will easily drool.
- Mouth feels dry.
- Pain around the jaw.
- Headache and dizziness.
- Difficulty eating, drinking, and speaking.
Bell’s palsy is a disorder that occurs in the muscles and facial nerves, so this condition has no impact on the performance of the brain and other body parts. If paralysis on one side of the face is also accompanied by paralysis on other parts of the body, serious treatment from a doctor is needed.
Bell’s palsy diagnosis
The American Medical Association (AMA) says that treatment is more effective when given early. Therefore, sufferers are advised to visit a doctor immediately after experiencing symptoms.
Diagnosing Bell’s Palsy is like a process of elimination. The doctor will look for other conditions that cause facial paralysis, such as a tumor, Lyme disease, or stroke. The doctor will examine the patient’s head, neck and ears. The doctor will also assess the facial muscles to determine if any nerves other than the facial nerve are affected.
If the diagnosis is still uncertain, the patient will be referred to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist or otolaryngologist. The following tests can be done by a specialist to diagnose Bell’s palsy:
- Electromyography (EMG): this procedure is done by placing electrodes on the patient’s face. The machine will then measure the electrical activity of the nerves and the electrical activity of the muscles in response to the stimulation. This test is useful for determining the extent of nerve damage, as well as its location.
- MRI, CT Scan, or X-ray. Some of these tests are good for determining if there is another condition underlying the disease, such as a bacterial infection, skull fracture, or tumor.
- Blood tests to check for a bacterial or viral infection.
Complications of Bell’s Palsy
Bell’s palsy usually heals over time and doesn’t cause long-term complications. However, during illness, most people with Bell’s Palsy cannot close their eyes on the affected side of the face. That’s why it’s so important to prevent dry eyes at night or while working at a computer.
The eye care needed is eye drops during the day, ointment at bedtime, or making the room humid at night. This can help protect the cornea from being scratched.
Other complications of Bell’s palsy can include:
- Permanent damage to the facial nerve.
- A person may have synkinesis, a condition in which moving one part of the face can cause other parts to move without realizing it. For example, your eyes close when you smile.
- Partial or complete blindness in the eye that won’t close due to excessive dryness, and scratching of the protective membrane of the eye (cornea).
Bell’s Palsy Treatment
To reduce swelling of the facial nerve, sufferers can use prednisolone or prednisone (a group of corticosteroid drugs). Meanwhile, to prevent the emergence of problems in the eye that cannot close, sufferers usually require eye drops.
About 70 percent of people with Bell’s palsy recover. Most will begin to improve within two or three weeks. However, for a full recovery, it can take about 10 months depending on the degree of nerve damage.
If a specific cause of Bell’s palsy can be identified, such as an infection, that cause will be treated. Otherwise, symptoms are treated as needed. One of the recommended treatments for Bell’s palsy is to protect the eyes from drying out at night or while working in front of a computer screen.
Eye care includes eye drops during the day, ointment before bed, or keeping the room humid at night. This treatment helps protect the cornea from being scratched, which is very important for the management of Bell’s palsy.
Your doctor may also prescribe other treatments for your condition based on the severity of your symptoms and medical history. Other treatment options include:
- Steroids to reduce inflammation.
- Antiviral drugs, such as acyclovir.
- Analgesic for pain relief.
- Physical therapy to stimulate the facial nerve.
Bell’s Palsy Prevention
Start a healthy lifestyle by eating high-fiber foods and exercising regularly. In addition, do regular health checks.