Bell’s palsy

Bell’s palsy is a condition in which the nerves that control your facial muscles suddenly either become compressed or become swollen. This can cause half of your face to droop and your mouth can only form half a smile. Bell’s palsy can affect anyone, but it generally does not affect teens under 15 or the elderly over 60. The good news is that this paralysis is often temporary. The symptoms often start to disappear within a few weeks, and most people completely recover within six months, if not sooner. However, around ten percent of all people will experience recurring symptoms, sometimes on the same side of the face, sometimes on the opposite side. A very small number of people will not recover and will have Bell’s palsy symptoms for the rest of their lives.

While a drooping face can be a sign of a stroke, the causes of the two are very different. Bell’s palsy is caused by the swelling or inflammation of a nerve. This nerve controls your facial muscles. A part of it passes through a narrow section of bone as it goes up to your face. If the nerve becomes too swollen because of an infection, it ends up getting pinched in this section. As the bone presses on the nerve, it can actually damage its protective cover. This can cause the nerve to stop communicating with the muscles in your face, leading to paralysis.

What causes this inflammation? The most common infection is herpes. However, just because you have Bell’s palsy does not necessary mean you have genital herpes. The herpes simplex virus also causes cold sores, and other viruses can also cause Bell’s Palsy, including as chickenpox, mononucleosis, and shingles.

The main symptom of Bell’s palsy is the drooping and weakness in one side of the face, but there are a few other singles of well. The eye on the affected side of your face may tear up, or you may find it hard to close it. Your ear may also be affected. You may have pain behind, in front of, or in the ear on the affected side of your face. Sounds may also seem louder on this side. You might also notice a loss of taste, headaches, or a change in the amount of saliva in your mouth. Your eyes may also seem dry or overly damp.

There are only a few factors that can increase your risk of Bell’s palsy. They include being pregnant, having diabetes, and having an infection in your upper respiratory system. Having a cold or the flu can also increase your risk of Bell’s palsy

Since most people recover from Bell’s palsy within several months, doctors may not always prescribe any sort of treatment. However, it is very important to visit your doctor if you experience facial weakness or paralysis because this symptom may not be a sign of Bell’s palsy—there are other illnesses and diseases that can cause facial drooping, and it’s important to know the exact cause. If it’s not Bell’s palsy, it may be something much more severe.

Most mild cases clear up quickly, but there can be some complications associated with Bell’s palsy. If the facial nerve is severely damaged, the damage may be irreversible. It’s also possible that the new nerve fibers can grow incorrectly. This can cause some facial muscles to involuntarily contract when you try to move other muscles—Trying to close your eye on the affected side of your face, for example, may cause your mouth to twitch. In these types of cases, there are some medication and some physical therapy exercises that can be done. Surgery to reduce the pressure on the nerve can be done, but it is still controversial and is rarely recommended.

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Last updated on Dec 25th, 2009 and filed under Neurological Disorders. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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