When a patient has facial paralysis, she cannot move either all of the muscles or some of the muscles on one side of her face. This paralysis can result from damage to a specific area of the brain that sends information to the facial muscles, or swelling or damage to the facial nerve.
Several conditions can cause facial paralysis. Congenital causes include Mobius syndrome, Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome, hemifacial microsomia and trauma during birth. Mobius syndrome involves dysfunction of the abducens and facial nerves, resulting in difficulty in expressing emotions and lack of facial movement.
The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary noted that patients with this disorder can experience social isolation, oral incompetence, low self-esteem and drooling.
With Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome, patients experience tongue fissures and facial swelling with the facial paralysis. A patient who has hemifacial microsomia has one side of the face that is not as developed as the other half.
The most common cause of facial paralysis is Bell’s palsy, which affects 30 people per 100,000, according to the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary. A stroke can also cause facial paralysis, though other muscles on the same side of the body can also become affected.
Certain infections can result in facial paralysis, such as Lyme disease, HIV and tuberculosis. Other causes of facial paralysis include traumatic injuries, brain tumors, sarcoidosis and autoimmune diseases. Facial paralysis may occur because of a treatment, such as the removal of a facial tumor.
The facial paralysis can cause asymmetry of a patient’s face, lower eyelid sagging and eyebrow depression. Patients may also have slurred speech, trouble smiling, decreased tears and drooling.
During diagnosis, the doctor will look at several different factors, such as how long the patient has had the symptoms and how severe the paralysis is. The doctor will also consider the patient’s age and her general health.
To rule out the different causes of facial paralysis, the doctor may run several diagnostic tests, such as blood tests, electromyography and brain scans, such as a CT or MRI.
Depending on the symptoms the patient has, her doctor may recommend different therapies. For example, if the facial paralysis affects the patient’s speech, she may benefit from speech therapy.
MedlinePlus noted that plastic surgery may be recommended for some cases of facial paralysis, such as ones caused by Bell’s palsy that last beyond 6 to 12 months.
MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Facial Paralysis. Web. 10 October 2011
The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary. Causes of Facial Paralysis. Web. 10 October 2011
Johns Hopkins Medicine. Facial Paralysis. Web. 10 October 2011
Reviewed October 11, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith