What Happens To Untreated Bell’s Palsy & When To Go To Doctor For It?

Bell’s palsy is named after the Scottish anatomist Charles Bell, who was the first to describe the condition.(1)

The exact cause of this damage is unknown, but researchers believe it’s most likely triggered by a viral infection.(1)

What Happens To Untreated Bell’s Palsy?

If a patient of Bell’s palsy goes unnoticed, undiagnosed, untreated, or opts out of the treatment then there is a possibility of three outcomes for this condition. The first group of patients will lead to complete recovery from the facial paralysis without any residual palsy left and uneventful recovery is there. The second group of patients will lead to incomplete recovery and residual facial paralysis but there would be no cosmetic effect seen on the face of the person which can be noticed by the untrained eye. A few of the symptoms can be seen when the person tries to use the facial muscles. The third group of the patients will lead to incomplete recovery or no recovery at all with the presence of residual facial paralysis and cosmetic disfigurement of the face. One can also see the presence of symptoms of facial paralysis when the person tries to use the facial muscles.

According to almost all the studies done on the facial palsy, it is concluded that nearly 80 to 90 % of the cases of Bell’s palsy fall into the first group of patients in which there is complete recovery from the paralysis without any residual facial palsy. It is also seen that most of the cases start improving by six weeks and has recovered by the end of 3 months.

The rate of recovery is also age-dependent. In the cases of Bell’s palsy above the age of 60 years, there is only a 40 % chance of complete recovery. Whereas in the cases of Bell’s palsy below the age of thirty years, there is about 10 to 15 % chance that the patient will not be able to completely recover from the condition.

The progress and extent of recovery can be predicted at the end of one month by using a scale known as the Sunnybrook scale. If there are any signs of recovery within the first 3 weeks then the person is more likely to get completely recovered from the condition. If the recovery starts after the first three weeks are over but within 2 months then also the outcome is mostly favorable. But if there is no recovery seen till the end of 2nd month, then there is a high chance that some sequelae will be left.(2)

When To Go To Doctor For Bell’s Palsy?

Since it is a distressing condition because of the involvement of the face, young people are most likely to come in the early phases of disease whereas older people generally show up to the doctor once the Bell’s palsy symptoms become very distressing and unbearable. According to the recommendations done based on various trials, it has been found that the earlier the treatment of this condition is started, the faster is the recovery. Also, there are fewer chances of any sequelae to be left. So, it is a prudent decision to approach the family physician or a specialist doctor for the treatment as soon as any of the symptoms related to this condition are experienced by the person. Any unnecessary delay will not cause any good to the patient but instead may delay the recovery period.

Conclusion

In almost 90 % of the cases, there is complete recovery from the Bell’s palsy but in a few cases, there is partial or complete loss-of-function of the facial muscles on the affected side. The consultation of a doctor should be done as soon as possible.

References:

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