Is Bell’s Palsy Caused By A Virus & Why Is It So Painful?

The exact cause of Bell’s palsy remains unknown, but it is often related to having a viral infection. 1.

Medical researchers believe that Bell’s palsy is most likely caused by viral infections typically herpes simplex and herpes zoster.2

Individuals with this idiopathic facial condition may have facial pain or abnormal feeling, distorted taste, and intolerance to loud noise.3,4

Bell’s palsy is an uncommon neurologic disorder involving the nerve that controls the muscles on one side of the face. The condition results from the dysfunction of the seventh cranial nerve that includes functions such as eye blinking and closing, smiling, and facial expressions.

It can be the most worrisome phase of life, but people make a full recovery. Bell’s palsy was named after a British surgeon, anatomist Sir Charles Bell who made several types of research on the nervous system.

Is Bell’s Palsy Caused By A Virus?

Bell’s palsy is temporary in most people and the symptoms tend to improve within three weeks. The recurrence of the condition is very rare and only a small number of people continue to have the syndrome for the lifetime.

Bell’s palsy symptom occurs a week or two after a cold sore, ear infection, and eye infection. The exact cause of Bell’s palsy remains unknown, but it is often related to having a viral infection. Most cases are developed due to cold sores induced by herpes viruses.1

Medical researchers believe that Bell’s palsy is most likely caused by viral infections usually herpes simplex and herpes zoster. When the nerves become inflamed, it starts to stress and pinch the cheekbone within the narrow gap. It is typically the herpes virus that inflames the nerve. As the nerves are pressed, it may cause damage to the defensive covering of the nerve.

Several other viruses that cause this condition include

  • Chickenpox or shingles virus
  • varicella-zoster virus
  • Infectious mononucleosis (Epstein-Barr)
  • MMR (Mumps, measles, rubella virus) cause acute peripheral facial palsy
  • Lyme disease can be present asymptomatic but idiopathic Bell’s palsy might be the first symptom.2

Why Is Bell’s Palsy So Painful?

Bell’s palsy can impact anyone irrespective of the age. The initial symptoms are pain and discomfort on one side of the face. Since the cause of the condition varies from a person to person, every individual encounter varying symptom. Medical research states that facial nerve does not contain pain sensors, so, when there is damage to the facial nerve, you don’t experience any symptoms.

In certain cases, Ramsay Hunt Syndrome (caused by Herpes Zoster Oticus) can be very distressing. This condition develops when there is an outbreak in the shingles virus affecting one of the facial nerves near the ear. This produces inflamed rashes and in most severe cases produces a facial loss, paralysis, and hearing loss in the affected ear. When compared with Bell’s palsy, Ramsay Hunt syndrome can produce serious paralysis and very less probability of complete recovery.

Some rare cases of Bell’s palsy turn chronic and the pain persists over their lifetime. The pain may be due to the facial muscles becoming inflamed, swollen, and compressed. This eventually causes stiffing or tightening of your facial muscles making them droop.

Facial paralysis may interfere with your speaking abilities, swallowing difficulties, and talking. Life will become a complete questionnaire in these patients. During such instances, you may seek the help of the physiotherapist or speech therapy to help improve symptoms and overcome your problem.3,4

References:

  1. “Bell’s Palsy.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2 Apr. 2020, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bells-palsy/symptoms-causes/syc-20370028.
  2. “Bell’s Palsy Fact Sheet.” National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/patient-caregiver-education/fact-sheets/bells-palsy-fact-sheet.
  3. Publishing, Harvard Health. “What to Do about Bell’s Palsy.” Harvard Health, www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/what-to-do-about-bells-palsy.
  4. Erin D. Callen, PharmD. “Bell’s Palsy and the Pharmacist.” U.S. Pharmacist – The Leading Journal in Pharmacy, 18 Jan. 2019, www.uspharmacist.com/article/bells-palsy-and-the-pharmacist.

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