Bell’s palsy is a condition that causes temporary weakness or paralysis of the muscles in one side of the face. It is the most common cause of Facial Paralysis.
It usually results from a dysfunction of the cranial nerve VII (the facial nerve) causing paralysis of one side of the face. The very peculiar feature of this condition is a rapid onset of partial or complete paralysis that often occurs overnight.
It is named after Scottish Anatomist Charles Bell (1774-1842) who first described this condition and hence the name – Bell’s Palsy.
Why does it happen?
Bell’s palsy is believed to occur when the nerve that controls the muscles in your face becomes compressed.
The exact cause is unknown, although it’s thought to be because the facial nerve becomes inflamed, possibly due to a viral infection. The herpes virus is thought to be the most common cause but other viruses may also be responsible.
Some conditions considered to be related to it are Brain tumors, Ear infection, Extreme cold exposure, Herpes zoster infection, Mumps etc.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of Bell’s palsy vary from person to person. The weakness on one side of the face can be described as either:
1. Partial Palsy, which is mild muscle weakness
2. Complete Palsy, which is no movement at all (Paralysis) – although this is very rare
Bell’s palsy can also affect
- The eyelid and mouth, making it difficult to close and open them
- Paralysis of one side of the face causing inability to close the affected side eye, loss of whistling, frowning, lip protrusion. In other words, “loss of expressions”
- Loss of sensation in the anterior 2/3rd of the tongue.
- Excessive lacrimation (tears)
- Upward & outward movement of the eyeball when patient attempts to close his eyes. This is called as Bell’s Phenomenon.
- Some people even experience tingling in face, pain, moderate to severe headache, memory and balance issues.
- In rare cases, it can affect both sides of a person’s face.
Who gets Bell’s Palsy?
Bell’s Palsy is a rare condition that affects about one in 5,000 people a year. It’s most common in people aged 15-60, with 15- to 44-year-olds experiencing the highest incidence
But people outside this age group can also suffer from the condition. Both men and women are affected equally.
Bell’s palsy is more common in pregnant women and those with diabetes and HIV, for reasons that are not yet fully understood.
YES! Babies can be born with facial palsy but this condition is more common in Adults.
Treating Bell’s Palsy
When you face weakness in the face, meet your physician/Neurologist immediately.
- The first line of treatment is usually Medication to reduce inflammation of the facial nerve and Antivirals (if it is related to herpes infection). Steroids have been shown to be effective.
- Physiotherapy treatment for Bell’s Palsy may consist of facial massage, exercises, acupuncture and electrical stimulation.
- The third line of treatment is Surgery.
Most people with Bell’s palsy will make a full recovery within nine months. There are ways to accelerate the process and reduce the chance of complications. However, if you have not recovered by this time, there is a risk of more extensive nerve damage and further treatment may be needed.
How can Physiotherapy be helpful?
Physiotherapy has been known to be successful in a big number of Bell’s Palsy cases.
- Physiotherapy includes muscle re-education exercises and soft tissue techniques to prevent permanent contractures of the paralyzed facial muscles.
- It helps to maintain the muscle tone of the affected facial muscles and stimulate facial nerve using Galvanic/Faradic Electrical Stimulation.
- Physiotherapy is also helpful in reducing pain with the use of various pain relief modalities.
At ReLiva we can assess, treat and monitor your condition from the acute onset of Bell’s Palsy through the various stages of recovery. Our Physiotherapists will follow the standardized 4 step ReLiva process to identify your goals and aim to restore facial muscle strength and symmetry, and help to stimulate facial nerve and maintain muscle tone and improve their co-ordination and range of movement.
Self Help Advice
- You should take care when eating not to bite the inside of your cheek or lip.
- Check that your cheek and gums are free of food after eating.
- Try use both sides of your mouth to chew food thus encouraging the muscles on the affected side to work.
- Sometimes your speech may be affected. You may find giving your mouth a little extra support from your hand while you talk will ease this at times.
- If the muscles around your eye are affected you should take particular care to remove dust from your eye. You can imitate blinking by gently closing your eye with your finger tips.
- Glasses may be useful to protect against dust particles when you are outdoors.
- You may need artificial teardrops to cleanse your eye.
You are invited to book a session with one of our clinics at ReLiva Physiotherapy & Rehab for Bell ’s Palsy rehabilitation exercises and advice. Our Physiotherapy experts will surely help you to “Smile”, “whistle” and “Express” yourself all over again!