Named after Charles Bell, the anatomist to first discover this condition, Bell’s Palsy can affect anyone between the ages of 16 and 16, and it occurs when the nerves responsible for controlling the facial muscles become compressed, inflamed or swollen. As a result, this can cause one side of your face – or in rare cases, both sides of your face – to become stiff and/or droop. You can also experience other symptoms such as having trouble closing your eyes and having difficulty smiling.
Bell’s Palsy usually appears abruptly, and while its exact cause is unknown, it can be triggered as a result of a viral infection, such as the common cold, or even bacterial infections like ear and eye infections. The herpes simplex virus and HIV have also been linked to Bell’s Palsy. You have an increased risk of developing this condition if you are pregnant, have diabetes, a lung infection, or if there is a history of Bell’s Palsy in your family.
In addition to some of the already mentioned symptoms, it’s also not unusual for an individual with Bell’s Palsy to experience other symptoms, including drooling, trouble eating or drinking, having an inability to make facial expressions, muscle twitches, headache, being sensitive to sound, dry eye, and dry mouth. If you are experiencing these or any of the aforementioned symptoms, it is important that you seek medical attention immediately. Certain symptoms of Bell’s Palsy can mimic those similar to a brain tumour or stroke.
In order to diagnose Bell’s Palsy, family physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary will do a thorough examination on the patient as well as ask questions relating to the patient’s symptoms. You may be provided a requisition for blood tests in order to determine if a viral or bacterial infection is present, as well as medical imaging tests to check the facial nerves.
In most cases, Bell’s Palsy will usually go away on its own, though it can take several weeks before you make a full recovery. To help speed along the recovery process, you can try some at-home remedies including holding a moist, warm towel over the face to help relieve mild pain – as well as over-the-counter pain relief medications. If the cause of Bell’s Palsy is due to a virus, you may be prescribed antiviral medication. Corticosteroid drugs can also help to reduce the inflammation associated with Bell’s Palsy.