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Bell's Palsy: Treatment And Prognosis

Bell's Palsy: Treatment And Prognosis

Bell’s Palsy refers to a paralysis or weakness of the muscles on one side of the face. It is also estimated that 1 out of 65 people will eventually develop the condition. Fortunately, many people who develop this condition eventually recover. While some cases go away on their own, others need extra help. Luckily, there are effective Bell’s Palsy treatments that can speed up recovery.

What is Bell’s Palsy?

Bell’s Palsy is a facial palsy that weakens or paralyzes one side of the face. It usually occurs suddenly and typically worsens over the next 48 hours. Generally, it stems from a dysfunction of the facial nerve (cranial nerve VII), the nerve responsible for the motor of the facial muscles such as blinking and smiling.

This facial nerve is also responsible for the salivary glands, tear glands, and the transmission of the sensory taste sensations from parts of the tongue.

Bell’s Palsy: What You Should Know

Though it most commonly affects one side of the face, there are rare cases where patients experience symptoms on both sides of the face. This condition can resolve on its own and patients can recover some if not all facial motor functions.

Patients who are pregnant, preeclamptic or hypertensive during pregnancy, hypertensive, obese, diabetic, and have upper respiratory conditions are more at risk of developing Bell’s Palsy.

Bell’s Palsy may also present as pain or discomfort within or behind the ear, numbness, tingling on the affected side of the face. A change in the sensory functions of the ear and tongue may also occur.

Bell’s Palsy Treatments

The goal of Bell’s Palsy treatments is to speed up the patient’s recovery. It also aims to prevent complications such as permanent nerve damage and vision issues due to eye dryness.

Eye care includes the use of an eyepatch and adequate lubrication. This usually entail eyes drops during the day and ointment at night.

Some available Bell’s Palsy treatments are:

Physical Therapy

Facial exercises, electrostimulation, biofeedback, and laser therapy may increase a patient’s rate of recovery.

Corticosteroid Use

Corticosteroids such as prednisolone can help in treating Bell’s Palsy. This is because the condition is often associated with inflammation and edema of cranial nerve VII. The use of corticosteroids can reduce inflammation.

Antiviral Medication

While not applicable to every case, antiviral medication may be beneficial to patients with a herpes simplex virus infection. This virus may cause Bell’s Palsy.

Bell’s Palsy Prognosis: Does The Condition Progress?

Fortunately, majority of patients with Bell’s Palsy (71 percent) recover from the condition within 6 months. This is with or without medical intervention. However, patients who are older, diabetic, hypertensive, or present with taste impairment and/or complete (bilateral) facial weakness are less likely to recover.

These patients may develop residual effects such as spasms on one side of the face, synkinesis, which is the involuntary movement of one body part when another part is voluntarily moved, or sweating while eating. However, the most common residual effects are “jaw winking” (the involuntary closure of the eye on the affected side of the face when the jaw opens) and “crocodile tears” (tears forming while chewing).

5 Bell’s Palsy Facial Exercises You Can Do at Home

Key Takeaway

Bell’s Palsy causes the muscles on one side of the face to weaken or paralyze. Luckily, there are Bell’s Palsy treatments that can help patients recover from the condition. This includes physical therapy and certain medicines. If you show symptoms of Bell’s Palsy, consult your doctor on what treatments are best for you.

Learn more about the Brain & Nervous System here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Bell’s Palsy Fact Sheet https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Bells-Palsy-Fact-Sheet Accessed January 21, 2021

Bell’s Palsy Overview, Incidence & Prevalence http://www.neurocntr.com/bells-palsy.php Accessed January 21, 2021

Bell’s Palsy: Treatment guidelines https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3152161/ Accessed January 21, 2021

Bell’s Palsy https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/bells-palsy Accessed January 21, 2021

Bell’s palsy https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bells-palsy/symptoms-causes/syc-20370028 Accessed January 21, 2021

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Written by Tracey Romero on Jan 21
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