Bell’s Palsy begins abruptly and causes facial weakness leading to paralysis. The unexplained event aggravates after 48 hours from the notice of the first symptom. The episode’s occurrence is due to the damage of the 7th cranial nerve, causing it to malfunction. Discomfort and pain exist on one side of the face and head.(1)
The illness occurs mostly in pregnant women but can affect both men and women. It also attacks individuals suffering from cold, influenza, diabetes, and other respiratory ailments. The chances are that it does not affect those below 15 years and above 60 years of age. Bell’s Palsy is not a permanent illness but can continue to remain for a prolonged period. Currently, no medication or treatment is available for the ailment. But the recovery progress starts after two weeks from the occurrence of the symptoms. The recovery rate is high, and usually, people retain their facial muscle strength and expressions.(1)
Is Bell’s Palsy A Progressive Disease?
Bell’s palsy is a non-progressive neurological disorder. People suffered from an episode of Bell’s Palsy show complete recovery without side effects and complications. But those suffering from severe conditions will recover with complexities, which are:
- Damage to the CN VII nerve that is responsible for facial expressions and control over muscles
- Excessive dryness of eyes, which could lead to eye injury and infections, or blindness
- Developing synkinesis, a condition where one part of the body movement causes others to move(2)
Patients suffering from Bell’s Palsy show a full recovery within a short period. However, specific individuals require at least nine months for complete healing. A delay in administration and diagnosis of the illness causes weakness of the mouth and face. Nonetheless, other factors such as age, the severity of the inflammation, and the nerve’s compression equally play a crucial role. Electrodiagnostic testing helps identify the presence of Bell’s Palsy. It is vital to perform it in a phased manner because decompression of the nerve after a fortnight does not rule out Bell’s Palsy.(3)
Alternative Treatments For Bell’s Palsy
With nil-to-little scientific evidence about the effect of alternative treatment handling Bell’s Palsy, it is difficult to comment on the same.
Nonetheless, some people could benefit from the following:
Acupuncture: sticking thin needles at vital points in the skin to help stimulate nerves
Bio-Feedback Training: A practice to use thoughts to control the body(5)
You will notice fever, cold, pain behind the ear, stiff neck, and stiffness to one side of the face. These usually are triggering mechanisms and tell you that Bell’s Palsy is likely to occur in the next few hours or instantly. The progression of the symptoms occurs within 48 to 72 hours after the initial identification of the symptoms. It generally happens to one side of the face. But the attack can happen on both sides of the face.(4)
Bell’s Palsy causes paralysis when the symptoms worsen during the productive time. The paralysis is temporary but weakens the facial muscles and nerves, with the recovery starting after two or three weeks. There is an 80% success rate with recovery resolving within three months.
Nonetheless, a few cases continue for an extended period. When it comes to severe cases, the facial muscles on both sides fall prey to paralysis, causing the face to become expressionless and immobile. The eyelids also remain open during sleep, causing dryness of the cornea.(4)
What Causes Bell’s Palsy?
The facial nerve, CN VII, is responsible for motor movements of the facial muscles, the stapedius, and the posterior belly. Additionally, parasympathetic fibers and sensory fibers travel along with the nerve. Therefore, nerve damage causes a natural effect on the tissues, resulting in paralysis. The probable mechanism of Bell’s Palsy is due to inflammation that compresses the nerve along the narrow fallopian canal. Due to this, there is a temporary loss of sensory and motor functions. However, they possess the ability to degenerate the nerve at later stages.(3)