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Recognizing Bell's Palsy

By HERWriter
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Let's start with some reassurances as to what Bell's palsy is not. It is not related to cerebral palsy. It is not an indication of a stroke. The word "palsy" means weakness or paralysis.

Bell's palsy is weakness in or paralysis of muscles on one side of the face that comes on very quickly.

The seventh cranial nerve, which controls most facial muscles and parts of the ear, becomes inflamed. The nerve may then put extreme pressure on the cheekbone. As a result, the protective covering of the nerve can become damaged.

The symptoms of Bell's palsy include headache, drooping of one side of the face, drooling from one side of the mouth, heightened sensitivity to sound in one ear, and pain around one ear.

The eye becomes irritated due to dryness, and unable to blink. There may be a loss of the sense of taste. If you have any of these symptoms, you should see a doctor right away.

Approximately 25 people out of 100,000 in the United States are afflicted with Bell's palsy annually. Incidence seems to be higher among people with diabetes mellitus, a cold or flu, or who are pregnant. A person can have Bell's palsy more than once in their lifetime, in about 7 percent of cases.

It is believed that Bell's palsy may be caused by a virus, like one of the herpes viruses, hepatitis viruses, rubella virus, or Epstein-Barr virus. Bell's palsy may be brought on by Mycoplasma pneumoniae infection. Lyme disease bacteria can also cause Bell's Palsy symptoms.

In making a diagnosis, the doctor will check the patient's head, neck and ears, looking first for other possible conditions like Lyme disease, stroke or a tumor. Muscles of the face will also be looked over to see if other nerves have also been affected.

If none of these causes are discovered, the diagnosis is Bell's palsy. If there is any doubt, the patient may be sent to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist, or otolaryngologist.

To suddenly find one's face paralyzed or drooping on one side is a terrifying experience. The first 48 hours are the worst. Fortunately, Bell's palsy is usually not a long-lasting condition, and in most cases, corrects itself without treatment.

Add a Comment5 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I was diagnosed with Bells Palsy July 12 of this year. My doctor was unable to provide a suitable explanation for what brought this on. I spent countless hours doing Internet searches, reading about everything from vitamin B12 deficiency to virus to stress. I was prescribed Acyclovir and Predinsone. Two weeks in, the ringing of the ears and severe headaches started, making it difficult to function. I am seeing improvement but have not yet fully recovered. What has helped me the most in my recovery is getting adjusted by a chiropractor weekly and face/neck massages by a holistic health professional.
This has been a really isolating experience. The first month or so I neurotically examined my face in the mirror daily as well as photographed my face daily. I would cry everyday on my way to work and sometimes in my cubicle too. My co-workers, friends and family were really supportive and tell me that it's barely noticeable unless it is pointed out. But I still feel really self-conscious when talking to people and especially when laughing. I try only to smile a close-lipped smile in public. The second month I decided to stop torturing myself and put down the mirror. In fact, I try to avoid mirrors at all costs now! Does anyone else feel kind of lonely in this experience?

Not a Pretty Girl

"To the dumb question 'Why me?' the cosmos barely bothers to reply: 'Why not?'" - Christopher Hitchens

September 29, 2010 - 2:22pm
EmpowHER Guest

I went to the ER yesterday and was diagnosed with Bell's Palsy. The onset took about four days. The first day I noticed that I couldn't move my right nostril and the right side of my tongue was numb. Didn't think too much of it. The next day I noticed that my right eye was not closing and opening at the same time as my left eye. The third day I started talking funny because I could not move the right corner of my mouth. Also started noticing that I was having a hard time spitting when I brushed my teeth. Tried to smile and right side of lips stayed shut. The fourth day is when It hit full force. Could not raise my right eyebrow anymore and started having a hard time drinking and eating. I could not close my right eye completely and the tearing up had started. Could not clinch my neck either when I bit down. The doctor told me that these are classic symponts, especially because the forehead was affected. He could not tell me exactly what caused it. I've heard everything from a virus to stress. I was prescribed Acyclovir and Predinsone. I have an appointment with my regular doctor next week.

February 16, 2010 - 10:08am
EmpowHER Guest

I also just got Bell's Palsy. This is the second time in 15 years I have gotten it on the same side of the face. I first recognized it the when I smiled and the other side was not following the uninfected side. I went to the doctor and they prescribed me acyclovir and prednisone pills as well as eye oitment and methylcellilose drops. I hope it corrects itself this time. The first time I got Bells Palsy, I was left with a little droop when I smile and my eye droops a little, just enough that only I can tell.

February 16, 2010 - 9:02am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Any idea why you got it the first or second time?

February 16, 2010 - 10:19am
EmpowHER Guest

I believe I just got Bell's Palsy. Symptoms started immediately after a locking of my jaw on one side and all the muscles of the jaw contracting really hard. I have an appointment to see a doctor tomorrow and hopefully it will correct soon. I cannot handle all the tearing of the left eye and trying to sleep with left eye a little open.

February 8, 2010 - 1:44pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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