Introduction to Bell’s Palsy
Bell’s palsy is a cause of temporary fascial paralysis or weakness due to compression or inflammation of the fascial nerve in your face.
What is Bell’s Palsy?
Bell’s palsy is a cause of temporary fascial paralysis or weakness due to compression or inflammation of the fascial nerve in your face. Usually only one nerve is affected causing one side of the face to be paralysed. It is one of the most common causes of fascial palsy mostly affecting those between 15 and 45 years.
What causes Bell’s Palsy?
There is no known cause for compression or inflammation of the facial nerve though some people believe that types of herpes virus are involved. Herpes simplex virus or varicella-zoster virus are the two most common viral causes of inflammation. Varicella-zoster virus is a less common cause out of the two but is more likely to lead to Ramsay Hunt Syndrome which is a serious condition. Those with diabetes or HIV are at a higher risk of developing Bell’s palsy but the cause is unknown. There is also a higher incidence of Bell’s palsy in the winter and women in the third trimester of pregnancy.
What are the symptoms of Bell’s Palsy?
Symptoms are dependent on the extent of damage to the nerve and range from mild numbness to total paralysis. Symptoms are most severe 48 hours after onset and include: Weakness or paralysis of one side of the face causing the side of the mouth to droop or make it difficult to close eyes, irritation of the affected eye, ear ache and increased sensitivity to sound, an altered sense of taste and headaches or dizziness.
Symptoms begin improve within 2-3 weeks and most people make a full recovery within nine months.
Facial weakness can also be a sign of a more serious condition such as stoke so you should visit A&E as soon as you notice someone who has developed sudden fascial paralysis.
How is Bell’s Palsy treated?
The medication prednisolone is the most effective form of treatment and should be started within 72 hours of symptoms appearing. Since one of the symptoms is difficulty in closing the eyes, it is important to maintain good eye care during that time. Antiviral medication is not recommended as a treatment for Bell’s palsy and most people will recover fully within nine months.
Prednisolone is a corticosteroid which reduces inflammation to aid the speed of recovery. Prednisolone can cause nausea, headache, indigestion, dizziness and oral thrush but as the body gets used to the medication, the side effects should improve.