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Neurosciences | Posted on 05/12/2020 by RBH
Facial palsy, also known as Bell’s palsy is a paralysis or severe weakness of the muscles on one side of the face supplied by the facial nerve. Facial palsy affects only one side of the face at a time, making the facial muscles on the affected side droop and become weak; very rarely does facial palsy affect both sides of the face. This condition is triggered due to viral infusion caused to the facial nerve, also referred to as the ‘seventh cranial nerve’. A person might wake up one morning and realize that one side of the facial muscles is not functioning and this is usually experienced with percutaneous pain. This condition will also impact saliva, tear production, and sense of taste. Facial palsy can affect anyone, and there is no particular reason for it; however, people with diabetes or patients recovering from viral infections are said to be more prone to the problem. A patient affected with facial palsy can completely recover within six months. More so, to some people, facial palsy might appear like a stroke; however, it is not so because, in facial palsy, weakness or paralysis only affects the face, not any other muscle. In cases where the symptoms of facial palsy are not clear, the doctor might conduct some tests to confirm the diagnosis.
Electromyography (EMG): This test is performed to assess the electrical activity of a muscle upon stimulation and the nature and pace of electrical impulses along with nerve activity. An EMG can provide insights into the never damage and also help analyze the severity of the condition and also useful in prognosis
Imaging: Imaging techniques such as MRI or CTI scan are used to eliminate the possibility of other reasons – such as a tumor or skull fracture – for pressure on the facial nerve.
Facial Palsy occurs when the facial nerve that controls the facial muscles is weakened or paralyzed. The facial nerve passes through a narrow space in bones from the brain to the face; when this nerve becomes inflamed, it causes pressure on the cheekbone leading to the destruction of the protective covering of the nerve. Once, the cover is distorted, the brain is unable to send signals to the facial muscles, causing them to fail and become paralyzed or weakened. The exact cause of this condition is unclear; however, it has been strongly linked to the herpes virus that causes the nerve to inflame. Some other viruses that can cause facial palsy are:
That said, facial palsy can affect both men and women; however, some factors put others at more risk of being affected by this condition. These include:
The facial nerve that is impacted during a facial palsy is responsible for all functions of the eye – blinking, opening, and closing. It is also in charge of controlling smiling, salivation, frowning, and tear production. Moreover, the facial nerve is also connected to the hearing muscles in the ear. Hence, during a facial palsy, any of these functions could be impacted. Some common symptoms of the condition include:
It is important to know and understand the symptoms to seek medical help timely. Facial palsy can be treated successfully, provided proper medical care is received.
Most patients who have facial palsy tend to recover within two months or maximum within six months of occurrence. Some treatment options that help are:
Prednisolone: This is a hormone that is used to reduce inflammation in the facial nerve; this works by controlling the release of inflammation-causing substances in the body. If given within 72 hours of onset, the steroid can significantly reduce symptoms. This can cause some side effects such as pain in the abdomen, dry skin, dizziness, headache, acne, nausea, indigestion, allergies, etc. – hence it must be taken only after consultation with a certified medical practitioner. Not useful after 2 weeks of symptoms
Lubrication of the Eye: This is a method to control the symptom of facial palsy such as loss of blinking which causes the eye to become dry due to the evaporation of tears and leads to irritation in the eye. Lubricating the eye with eye drops and ointment helps ease the situation. Eye drops are given to be used upon waking up, and ointment is applied before going to sleep. In cases, where the patient faces problems in closing the eye while sleeping, the surgical tape might be used to keep the eye shut. In case the symptoms get worse, the doctor must be consulted.
Home Care: Facial palsy can also be treated at home upon consultation with the doctor. Some steps, such as those below, are very helpful in curing the condition.
Physical Therapy: Paralysed muscles tend to shorten and shrink, leading to permanent damage. Physical therapy such as massaging of facial muscles can help prevent possible permanent contractures.
Pain Killers: Some over-the-counter painkillers might prove useful to ease the discomfort and pain caused because of facial palsy.
Surgery: In severe and rare cases, the doctor might conduct surgery to relieve the pressure on the facial nerve so that it fits well within its bony structure and functions properly. However, the surgery has high risks and complications and hence, is only preferred when all other methods have failed to provide any relief.
That said, facial palsy might appear as a disturbing and threatening condition; however, it can be easily managed and recovered from provided adequate medical help is sought.