Waking up one morning, I looked in the mirror, saw my face was droopy on one side, scaring the heck out of me. I was in my 30’s, believing it was a stroke but relieved the diagnosis was Bell’s Palsy. Most of the facial nerves returned to normal, however, I continue to show minor signs around my eyes and mouth area (30 years later). It’s interesting to learn that people with migraines have a higher risk of having Bell’s Palsy.
Image: Picture of Allen Ginsberg who had Bell’s Palsy, photo by Michiel Hendryckx (Wikimedia Commons)
Bell’s palsy is a paralysis or weakness of the muscles on one side of your face.
They damage the facial nerve that controls muscles on one side of the face, causing that side of your face to droop, which may affect your sense of taste and how you produce tears and saliva.
This condition comes without warning. Waking up with Bell’s Palsy first thing in the morning, a person discovers that one side of their face doesn’t move, and if it affects an eyelid, blinking may be difficult.
1. Bell’s Palsy typically starts suddenly, but it’s not to be confused with the condition of cerebral palsy.
2. Links have been found between migraine, facial and limb weakness which prompted a study showing that people with migraine may be at much higher risk of having Bell’s Palsy.
3. Most people who suddenly undergo these sudden symptoms believe they are having a stroke. However, if the weakness or paralysis only affects the face it’s likely to be diagnosed with Bell’s palsy.
4. Approximately 40,000 Americans develop Bell’s palsy each year. According to the National Health Service (NHS), UK, reports show about 25 to 35 people out of every 100,000 develop Bell’s palsy each year.
5. It is classed as a somewhat rare condition.
6. More common in people over 15 and under 60 years of age, affecting men and women equally
It’s important to have yourself checked by your doctor immediately should there be a sudden weakness occurring on one side of your face to rule out other serious causes.
It’s unclear but it’s thought Bell’s Palsy may be caused by the herpes virus that causes cold sores and genital herpes, or other viruses such as chickenpox, and shingles.
Many health problems may cause face weakness or paralysis, and if a specific reason can’t be found for the weakness, the condition is termed Bell’s palsy.
Image: Internal medicine Bell’s Palsy (Columbia Univ. Library 1920) Wikimedia Commons
What are the symptoms of Bell’s palsy?
• Sudden weakness or paralysis on one side of your face that causes drooping is the main symptom. Closing your eye may prove difficult.
• Signs of drooling.
• Eye problems including dry eye or excessive tearing.
• Loss of ability to taste.
• Ear pain.
• Numbness in the affected side of your face.
• Increased sound sensitivity.
How is it diagnosed?
By asking questions, your doctor can diagnose Bell’s palsy, including when your symptoms developed and a physical and neurological exam to check facial nerve function.
If the cause of your symptoms is unclear, other tests may be required, such as blood tests, an MRI, or a CT scan.
How is it treated?
Most people recover completely, with no treatment, in 1 or 2 months, and especially true for those who are able to move their facial muscles, however, a small number of people may remain with permanent muscle weakness and/or problems affecting the right side of the face.
Treatment with corticosteroid medicines (such as prednisone) proved successful making it more likely that you will regain all facial movement. It’s best if medication is taken soon after symptoms start (within 3 days). Sometimes antiviral medicines (such as acyclovir) could be added to corticosteroid medicines for the treatment of Bell’s palsy, but the evidence is weak helping in some cases and in general doesn’t affect recovery.
Take note that some people, due to other health problems, may be unable to tolerate corticosteroid medicines.
A short list of famous people with Bell’s palsy:
George Clooney, American actor/director/producer/screenwriter
Roseanne Barr, American comedian/actress (condition occurred as a child)
Gordon Lightfoot, Canadian singer
Pierce Brosnan, Irish actor/film producer
Freddie Burns, England & Leicester Tigers rugby player
Rick Savage, bass guitarist (British rock band Def Leppard)
Allen Ginsberg, American poet
See other names of people @ en.wikipedia.org
Written by Deb McCarthy/2017
Information sources: medicalnewstoday.com & webmd.com
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