Bell’s palsy treatment

Bell’s palsy is a type of facial paralysis; while it may be embarrassing and discomforting for those who have it, it doesn’t typically have serious consequences. Keep in mind that there are exceptions to that. It occurs when the nerve that controls the facial muscles on one side of the face becomes swollen and inflamed; it doesn’t happen on both sides at the same time. The result: a lop-sided face. The affected side becomes stiff, droopy, stuck with a one-sided smile, and an eyelid that won’t seem to close. Fortunately, whilst unsettling, Bell’s palsy generally clears up after 3-6 months, with symptom relief experienced after only a few weeks. In some cases, an individual might experience a recurrence of the paralysis, maybe even on the other side of the face. Still, very few people will experience symptoms of Bell’s palsy for the rest of their life. Recovery will happen naturally, but many times a physician will recommend certain treatments—medications or physical therapy—to speed the recovery process. The cause isn’t always certain, but in most cases it is caused by the herpes simplex virus (that causes cold sores and genital herpes). Learning how to recognize the symptoms is important, and at the same time, the physician needs to be able to rule out other, more serious, causes of paralysis based off the symptoms.

Symptoms of Bell’s palsy

The signs and symptoms of Bell’s palsy come on unexpectedly and all of a sudden. They include: rapid onset of mild weakness to total paralysis on one side of the face, occurring within hours to days, and making it difficult to smile or close the eye on the affected side of the face; facial drooping; difficulty making facial expressions; pain around the jaw; pain in or around the ear on the affected side; increased sensitivity to sound on the affected side; headache; decrease in the ability to taste; and changes in the amount of tears and saliva produced.

Treatment for Bell’s palsy

There are different treatments for Bell’s palsy that can speed up the recovery process quicker than it would be if no treatment was involved; they include medical solutions and lifestyle and home remedies.

Medications. There are two types of drugs used to treat Bell’s palsy: corticosteroids and antiviral drugs. Corticosteroids (for example, prednisone) are very powerful anti-inflammatory agents; they work to reduce the swelling of the nerve and help it return back to normal. Antiviral drugs (for example, acyclovir or valacyclovir) will stop the development of the infection if a virus is the cause.

Physical Therapy. Physical therapists often help those with paralysis, whether it is total, partial, or just facial. A physical therapist can teach you how to work with the muscles that are affected. Paralyzed muscles often shrink and shorten, causing permanent damage. By working with a physical therapist, you can learn how to massage and exercise those muscles to prevent this from happening and make them more useful.

Surgery. Surgery for Bell’s palsy is very rare and not highly recommended. It is meant to relieve the pressure on the facial nerve by opening up the passage through which it passes. Another type of surgery, for those in which the palsy has left permanent damage, plastic surgery may be necessary or desired for reconstruction of the face.

Protect the eye. Whichever eye is affected, a good step to take would be to protect it. To keep the eye moist (since it can’t blink), use lubricating eye drops during the day and an ointment at night. To protect it from getting poked, scratched, or invaded by foreign particles, wear glasses or some other protective covering during the day when you’re out and about.

Pain relievers. If there is pain associated with the palsy, take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as Ibuprofen, Tylenol, or Aspirin.

Moist heat. Another way to relieve pain is to apply a warm compress to the face several times a day.

Alternative medicine
. Everyone has a differing opinion on the effectiveness of alternative medicine. There are some, however, that have been used to treat Bell’s palsy, such as acupuncture, relaxation techniques, biofeedback training, and vitamin therapy.

Last updated on Oct 22nd, 2010 and filed under Neurological Disorders. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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