Bell’s palsy is a condition in which the muscles on one side of your face become weak or paralyzed. It affects only one side of the face at a time, causing it to droop or become stiff on that side.
It’s caused by some kind of trauma to the seventh cranial nerve. This is also called the “facial nerve.” Bell’s palsy can happen to anyone. But it seems to occur more often in people who have diabetes or are recovering from viral infections.
Most of the time, symptoms are only temporary.
If it happens to you, you may fear you’re having a stroke. You’re probably not. A stroke that affects your facial muscles would cause muscle weakness in other parts of your body, too.
What Causes It?
Most doctors believe that it’s due to damage to the facial nerve, which causes swelling. This nerve passes through a narrow, bony area within the skull. When the nerve swells — even a little bit — it pushes against the skull’s hard surface. This affects how well the nerve works.
Researchers have long believed that viral infections may also play a role in the development of Bell’s palsy. They’ve found evidence that suggests the herpes simplex 1 virus (a common cause of cold sores) may be responsible for a large number of cases.
The symptoms of Bell’s palsy tend to come on all of a sudden. You may go to bed one night feeling fine. But when you look in the mirror the next morning, you see that part of your face seems to be drooping.
Some people feel pain behind their ear 1-2 days before they notice any weakness. Others say that sounds seem much louder than normal in the days before they see any other symptoms.
You might also notice the following things before the onset of Bell’s palsy (remember that these symptoms will probably only happen on one side of your face):
- You’re unable to close your eyelid or blink
- Your eye waters more or less than usual
- Difficulty chewing
- Decreased sense of taste
- Your facial muscles twitch
- Pain or numbness behind your ear
Facial weakness and drooping typically reach their peak within a day or two. Most people start to feel better within a couple of weeks. They usually recover completely within 3 months. Some people who develop Bell’s palsy have a longer recovery period. In rare cases, they may have some permanent symptoms.
There’s no test that can tell you for sure if you have Bell’s palsy. In fact, doctors usually find out through what they call a “diagnosis of exclusion.” That means in most cases, they determine you have Bell’s palsy only after other conditions have been ruled out.
Your doctor will start by doing a complete and careful physical exam. If he suspects you have Bell’s palsy, he’ll try to close your eyelid on the affected side of your face. If it doesn’t close, it’ll signal that you have what doctors call “the Bell phenomenon.” With this condition, your eye rolls upward and outward when you try to close it.
Your doctor will then try to rule out other conditions. He’ll probably test your hearing and sense of balance. He may also order several tests, such as skull X-rays, a computed tomography (CT) scan, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Electrical testing may help clarify the diagnosis. It may also help him predict how fast and fully you’ll recover.
More you can find in another article….