What is Bell’s Palsy?
Bell’s palsy is a facial paralysis caused due to the inflammation of the facial nerve in the skull. The lesser-known condition is characterized by the inability to move one side of the facial muscles and is often mistaken for a brain stroke by patients’ due to similar symptoms. Bell’s Palsy also causes drooping of the facial muscles, twitching, weakness, drooling, pain around the ear and increased sensitivity to sound. In rare cases, the condition can occur on both sides of the face.
It is imperative that we educate people about Bell’s Palsy as people are unaware of its existence and often confuse it with a brain stroke causing extreme panic among patients and their loved ones. The numbness often starts from the mouth region and then expands to the rest of the face within 48 hours. It usually affects one side of the face, however, in rare cases, both sides may be affected.
Causes for Bell’s Palsy
The condition may occur due to a viral infection or sudden change in temperature which may trigger the nerve damage in the skull leading to paralysis of facial muscles. The damage causes the facial nerve to die and requires proper medications and treatment to help the nerve regrow to its initial length.
People need to be aware of the condition due to the high usage of air conditioners. The sudden transition from extremely warm temperatures outdoors to cold temperatures indoors is one of the leading concerns associated with Bell’s Palsy.
Bell’s Palsy Statistics
According to most international population studies, 15-30 cases per 100,000 population of Bell’s Palsy are observed annually. Additionally, Bell’s Palsy accounts for 60-75% of acute unilateral facial paralysis cases with the right-side being affected 63% of the time.
Treatment for Bell’s Palsy
The traditional treatment usually includes medications and various therapeutic options and may take around 3- 6 months for the facial nerve to regrow to its original length, however, the face may not regain its original shape and may appear to be asymmetrical. In addition to the medications, doctors now recommend immediate physiotherapy as it expedites the growth of the damaged nerve and helps gain full recovery. Moreover, physiotherapy helps restore the original symmetry of the face and regain complete muscle movement. The methods used during physiotherapy include electrical stimulation to help restore the tone and strength of the facial muscles, infrared radiation to improve blood circulation, facial massages to prevent drooping and facial exercises to regain muscle movement.
Due to lack of muscle movement, patients suffering from Bell’s Palsy are unable to close their eye leading to increased exposure to light and dust. The constant exposure to air may lead to eye dryness and damage, hence, patients are advised to wear protective eyewear at all times.
Tips to prevent Bell’s Palsy
- Extreme cold temperatures in offices, houses, malls, and cinemas may trigger damage to the facial nerve in rare cases and should be avoided.
- Kids area should always be moderately cool as they too are at risk of developing the condition.
- Sleeping in extremely cold temperatures, leaving your hair wet in cold temperatures and sudden fluctuations between extreme temperatures should be avoided as much as possible.
- Due to the onset of summer, doctors are advising people of all age groups to be careful and seek medical assistance in case of any sudden numbness on the face.