Bell’s Palsy is muscle weakness or an episode of facial paralysis with no explanation for its occurrence. The episode starts instantly and affects one side of the face, and the severity of the condition worsens within 48 hours from the first attack.(3)
The cause of Bell’s Palsy is due to the dysfunction of facial nerve – cranial nerve VII. The nerve directs the muscles on one side of the face, along with eye blinking control and facial expressions. There are twelve such nerves recognized in the order of Roman numerals. The cranial nerve VII carries the impulses of small bone present in the middle of the ear along with saliva glands and tears glands. Also, it transfers the feeling of the taste from the tongue.(1)
Can You Feel Bell’s Palsy Coming On?
It is possible to identify the coming of Bell’s Palsy by noticing the following changes in health and facial expressions:
- The onset of expression to one side of the face that occurs either slowly or suddenly
- When it is difficult to generate facial expressions, and you begin facial droop
- You will notice a slow or sudden surge in pain in and around the jaw, behind the ear, or on the affected side of the face
- There will be an increased sensitivity towards sound on the affected side
- Increased headaches
- Loss in taste
The above symptoms help in identifying the oncoming of the illness in the early stages. Also, Bell’s Palsy can affect both sides of the nerves of the face in rare cases.(2)
How To Test For Bell’s Palsy?
Currently, there is no method to identify Bell’s Palsy in its nascent stage. Depending on the symptoms, the doctor will ask you to move the muscles with different expressions to notice the changes. It includes closing the eyes, lifting the brows, smiling, showing the teeth, and other movements.
As it is possible for other infections and diseases to mimic Bell’s Palsy by weakening the facial muscle, doctors perform a thorough examination. The tests usually recommended include:
Electromyography (EMG): It is possible to identify the cranial nerve’s condition and its severity with EMG. The instrument maps the electrical activity of the muscle and its response to a specific posture and the speed and nature of conduction of electrical impulses passing through the nerve.
Imaging Scans: Magnetic imaging resonance (MRI) or computerized tomography (CT) is helpful in some instances to rule out other sources that can cause nerve swelling. It includes the presence of a tumor or a fracture.(2)
What Is The Cause Of Bell’s Palsy?
We now know that it is the cranial nerve VII that causes Bell’s Palsy. But it is the compression or swelling of the nerve that causes the illness, leading to facial paralysis. Medical researchers believe that the triggering of the swelling is due to a viral infection. The linked viruses are:
- Herpes simplex that causes genital herpes and cold sores
- HIV, which reduces immunity
- Sarcoidosis, that results in inflammation of organs
- Lyme disease
- Epstein-Barr virus that is responsible for mononucleosis
- Herpes Zoster virus that results in shingles and chickenpox.(4)
Is It Possible To Treat Bell’s Palsy?
In certain conditions, the signs get better without treatment. Nonetheless, the recovery period is long. Your facial muscles will need weeks or a few months to return to their normal strength without external assistance. The following methods help treat the illness and speed up the recovery process:
- By using corticosteroid drugs that help in reducing inflammation
- Using antibacterial medication is helpful if the source of the occurrence is due to a bacteria or virus
- Choosing ibuprofen is advisable to treat mild pains
- Eye drops
- Using eye patches are advisable
- Wrapping the face with a moist and warm towel helps in easing the pain
- Physical therapy exercises that stimulate facial muscles
- Regular facial massage.(4)
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