Bell’s palsy: what is it? See symptoms and treatment

What is Bell’s Palsy?

Bell’s palsy is a facial nerve palsy that results in inactivation of the nerves to control the facial muscles on the side that has been hit. The disease can also be called facial palsy, cranial mononeuropathy or idiopathic peripheral facial palsy.

Stop blinking or blinking with one eye and stop smiling are symptoms that can be characterized in both Bell’s palsy and stroke. Although they have some symptoms in common, the diseases are different: Bell’s palsy is due to inflammation, while the stroke is due to a brain injury that controls the nerves of the face.

For every 5,000 people, one is affected and with increasing age the incidence tends to increase significantly. Paralysis can affect people in the same family, between 4 and 14% of people in the same family demonstrate the case. It is also known that pregnant women and diabetic patients are more likely to acquire the disease.

Index in this article you will find the following information:

  1. What is Bell’s Palsy?
  2. Causes
  3. Risk factors
  4. Symptoms of Bell’s Palsy
  5. Diagnosis
  6. Bell’s palsy x Stroke
  7. Bell’s Palsy Treatment
  8. Complications
  9. Living with the problem
  10. Prevention

Causes

Bell’s palsy does not have an exact cause, but it is possible to believe that it is the result of inflammation of the facial nerve in response to a viral infection, absence of blood irritation or compression. There are some known problems that can cause paralysis, they are:

  • Mononucleose;
  • Herpes labial, herpes genital e herpes zóster;
  • Gripe;
  • Rubella;
  • Chickenpox;
  • Hand-foot-mouth syndrome;
  • Mumps;
  • Respiratory diseases by adenovirus;
  • Cytomegalovirus infections.

Risk factors

Pregnant women are three times more likely to have Bell’s palsy than non-pregnant women. Pre-disposition is also greater in patients who have diabetes , kidney infections or genetic problems.

Symptoms of Bell’s Palsy

The symptoms of Bell’s palsy are easy to identify, although they are similar to symptoms of stroke and stroke. The main ones are:

  • Muscle weakness in the face, affecting only one side of the face;
  • As it is paralyzed, the face does not respond to commands, causing it to be tilted;
  • Saliva and drinks can fall down the affected side of the mouth, leaving the person drooling;
  • The same problem occurs when chewing, in addition to the fact that food can get stuck between the teeth, lips and gums;
  • Headaches and around the jaw may occur;
  • Having problems with speech, blowing or whistling;
  • Failing to keep your eyes open or closed. If the difficulty is when closing, dryness of the eyes can occur causing damage to the cornea;
  • It is rare, but the ears and tongue can be affected, the former can become more sensitive and noises can become very high-pitched while the tongue can lose sensitivity and no longer taste the food;
  • Wrinkling your forehead can become a difficult task;
  • In rare cases, the production of tears and saliva can be altered.

The paralysis can take hours or even days to return to normal, it depends on the amount of the nerve that was affected by the viral infection.

Diagnosis

The doctors who can diagnose Bell’s palsy are the neurologist and the general practitioner.

In order for the problem to be diagnosed more quickly, the patient can go on recording the main symptoms, how long ago they appeared and their doubts. In addition, you can ask your family members questions if someone else has had similar symptoms.

In order for the specialist to be able to give the correct diagnosis, it is necessary that in addition to the clinical consultation he does physical and neurological exams to check the facial muscles. If it is still not possible to give the diagnosis, blood tests, tomography or MRI may be ordered.

Bell’s palsy x Stroke

Although the symptoms are very similar, there are some differences between the two diseases. Bell’s palsy affects only half of the face, and can paralyze both the upper and lower parts of the face.

Stroke also paralyzes only half of the face, but the difference is that it affects only the lower part and can still cause weaknesses in the arms and legs.

Bell’s palsy occurs suddenly, bringing symptoms over night, while in the event of a stroke, the problem can arise slowly, taking weeks or even months.

Bell’s palsy does not usually occur in children under 10 years of age. If symptoms appear, see a doctor immediately so that he or she can identify the problem as soon as possible.

There are other causes of peripheral facial paralysis that are less recurrent than Bell’s. They are:

  • Lyme disease;
  • Síndrome de Melkersson-Rosenthal;
  • Sarcoidosis;
  • HIV;
  • Sjogren’s syndrome;
  • Cholesteatoma;
  • Otitis media.

Bell’s Palsy Treatment

Symptoms usually return over time, but they usually take months to return to normal. Some patients choose to accelerate recovery with medication, physiotherapy or surgery.

Physiotherapy

Physiotherapists can assist in teaching exercises and performing massage so that the muscles of the face recover quickly.

Surgeries

Doctors had long ago performed decompression surgery to relieve the facial nerve by opening the bone passageway through which the nerve passes. Nowadays, this procedure is no longer performed, as permanent hearing loss and facial nerve damage were recurrent.

Plastic surgery can be recommended to treat chronic problems that have affected the facial nerve.

Medicines

Painkillers, antivirals and corticosteroids can be indicated to relieve symptoms and to make recovery faster. The drugs most recommended by specialists are:

  • Prednisone ;
  • Betametasona.

Do not self-medicate, only the doctor can indicate the best medicine for your treatment.

How to take care of yourself at home

There are facial exercises that can make the movement of the face return more quickly. Doing simple activities like tightening and relaxing facial muscles can make your muscles stronger. Massaging the cheeks, forehead, lips with cream or oil also helps in the treatment.

Performing this type of activity causes permanent contractures of the facial muscles to be prevented.

Use the finger to open and close the eyelid of the affected eye to keep it lubricated. Using an eye patch at night can be a good way to protect you.

If there is a paralysis in the mouth, leftover food can get stuck in this part causing cavities or gingivitis , so that this does not occur it is essential to make the correct brushing.

Applying a damp towel soaked in hot water on the face can help to relieve pain. Using painkillers can also relieve pain, but it is advisable to consult the doctor first.

Attention! 

NEVER self-medicate or stop using a medication without first consulting a doctor. Only he will be able to tell which medication, dosage and duration of treatment is the most suitable for his specific case. The information contained on this site is only intended to inform, not in any way intended to replace the guidance of a specialist or serve as a recommendation for any type of treatment. Always follow the instructions on the package insert and, if symptoms persist, seek medical or pharmaceutical advice.

Complications

Although the symptoms usually disappear after some time, irreversible damage can occur to the face, such as the involuntary contraction of the muscles. This contraction can occur, for example, when closing the eye, the mouth can be pulled slightly upwards as if smiling.

Crocodile tears

It is characterized by tearing the affected eye involuntarily, especially when feeding, as the muscles of the face are moved. This happens because of a nerve defect.

Lagoftalmo

It is the inability to close your eyes completely, bringing problems to the eye, such as dryness and in some cases, applying artificial tears is contraindicated.

If you are not careful, vision problems can be irreversible.

Sincinesia

Synkinesis is the name given to the part of the face that moves automatically. When the affected eye closes automatically, or when there is an involuntary contraction of the muscles of the face and neck.

Living with the problem

There are some home treatments that help to relieve the symptoms of Bell’s palsy. Use eye drops for dry eyes, do facial massage, and even the physiotherapy indicated above. The hot, wet compress is indicated to relieve pain.

Even if there is no treatment, 7 out of 10 patients fully recover from Bell’s palsy between 3 weeks and 4 months. It is believed that 7% of cases can recur within 10 years. And 3 out of every 100 patients suffer from paralysis more than once in their lives.

Prevention

Since there is no certainty as to the cause of Bell’s palsy, there is no way to prevent it. What can be done is to avoid the diseases that can cause facial paralysis. It is important to pay attention to the symptoms if they arise, so that you can treat them as quickly as possible and avoid future complications.


For more people to learn about the disease, share it with your family and friends! We are always available to answer your questions!

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