WHAT IS IT?
Bell’s Palsy is a condition in which the facial nerve becomes inflamed and loses function. The exact cause of Bell’s Palsy is unknown, however it is often linked to a viral infection, specifically Herpes Simplex (cold sore), Herpes Zoster (shingles and chickenpox), Epstein Barr (mono) and Covid-19. It is also linked to the bacteria that causes Lyme’s Disease. Individual cases are often difficult to link to any specific cause because of the latent (delayed) nature of these viruses and bacterial infections. Bell’s palsy causes (typically) one-sided facial paralysis (including the upper face, drooping of the face and an inability to close the affected eye), dry eye and mouth, loss of taste and possibly an earache. If only the lower part of your face is experiencing paralysis, this may be indicative of a more severe condition.
WHEN WILL IT IMPROVE?
Up to 70% of Bell’s Palsy cases will fully resolve within 8 weeks and 85% of cases will fully resolve within 12 weeks. Most of the remaining cases are resolved by 6 months. Because of this recovery timeline, treatments will vary depending on the phase of recovery you are in.
WHAT CAN I DO?
Early Phase (Healing phase):
Medical care: Oral steroids are the gold standard treatment and should be started within 72 hours of initial symptoms (if possible). This treatment helps alleviate inflammation around the facial nerve, dampening the effects of this condition as well as speeding up recovery. Anti-virals may also be used in conjunction with steroid treatment if your Bell’s Palsy has an obvious viral link. These medications must be prescribed by your physician.
Eye care: Taping your eye shut at night, using lubricating gel or eye drops and avoiding dusty/windy environments. Make an appointment with your eye doctor if you develop any eye redness or soreness as this can lead to cornea damage. Keep in mind, many individuals with Bell’s Palsy believe their affected eye is closed at night when sleeping due to a phenomenon called Bell’s Phenomenon. This is when your pupil rolls back when attempting to close your eye. This is why taping at night is so important if you are unable to achieve eye closure. RECOMMENDATIONS FROM FACIAL PALSY UK: Surgical Transpore tape (2 inches)
Gentle facial exercises with the help of your hand and feedback from a mirror. These exercises include massage and gentle strong side stretching.
Cheek taping: of the affected side to improve comfort, ability to speak and eat.
Modalities: Laser treatment has been shown to facilitate nerve healing and assist with pain control.
Later Phases (3 months and later):
Exercises to regain control of your facial expressions. These exercises become most important if you notice any asymmetries in your facial expressions as your facial nerve recovers. These exercises include the following focuses:
Facilitation: Activating muscles that are not properly activating
Movement Control: Once your muscles are activating, we must get all of the muscles on both sides of the face acting in a coordinated fashion. Uncoordinated movements can result in distorted facial expressions.
Relaxation: Along with poor muscle activation and uncoordinated movements, other muscles (often on the uninvolved side) can become tight and over-activated. Relaxation and stretching techniques can help alleviate this tightness, which is important to achieve the symmetry helpful to comfortably express yourself.
RESOURCES TO HELP YOUR RECOVERY:
if you live in the Appleton or Neenah area and you’re looking for treatment solutions for your Bell’s palsy, feel free to reach out and we will be happy to help guide you through your Bell’s Palsy journey.