For individuals who have suffered at least one episode of Bell's Palsy in the past, its recurrence rate is around 8%.
Bell's Palsy is characterized by temporary weakness causing facial drooping. Some symptoms may also include one-sided smiles and difficulty closing the eye. The exact trigger hasn't been identified. It is believed that it involves inflammation and swelling of the facial nerve, potentially sparked by a viral infection. This condition is not limited to a particular age group. There have also been reports of cases of Bell's Palsy at a young age.
This article discusses Bell's Palsy in detail, including subjects like symptoms and treatment. Read ahead to learn more about the condition.
What is Bell's Palsy?
Bell's Palsy manifests as a sudden onset of facial muscle weakness or paralysis. The condition worsens over 48 hours due to damage to the facial nerve.
This neurological disorder affects the facial nerve, the primary cause of facial paralysis.
The onset is rapid, occurring over 48-72 hours. Most affected individuals recover from facial dysfunction within weeks to months. However, some may experience prolonged or permanent weakness. Bell's Palsy is linked to cranial nerve VII. This nerve is responsible for facial expression, taste, and ear sensation. Hence, the symptoms of the disease affect these bodily functions.
Causes of Bell's Palsy at Young Age
We do not know the exact cause of Bell's Palsy. Cases of Bell's Palsy at a young age are particularly a mystery. However, it is thought to involve inflammation directed by the immune system against the facial nerve. Some of the popular theories regarding the cases of this disease are:
1. Bell's Palsy may stem from inflammation directed by the body's immune system against the facial nerve.
2. Bell's Palsy is linked to conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.
3. Viral infections, particularly herpes simplex, herpes zoster, Epstein-Barr, cytomegalovirus, adenovirus, etc.
Such infections are frequently associated with Bell's Palsy.
4. Inflammation and swelling in the facial nerve are among the most widely accepted causes of Bell's Palsy.
Bell's palsy Symptoms
Most of the symptoms of Bell's Palsy are related to facial control. This is because the condition is linked to inflammation in the facial nerve. Some of the notable symptoms warning signs are:
1. Difficulty in controlling muscles responsible for facial expressions. A common symptom in patients of Bell's Palsy finding one eye more significant.
2. Loss of Facial Sensation
3. Frequent Headaches
4. Difficulty in controlling saliva or drooling is also a common symptom.
5. An unusual loss of taste, specifically on the front two-thirds of the tongue.
7. Hypersensitivity to sound in the affected ear.
8. The inability to fully close the eye on the affected side, potentially leading to eye dryness and discomfort.
9. Facial Muscle Paralysis. Some patients of Bell's Palsy find one eye bigger than the other.
Warning Signs and Seeking Professional Guidance:
Early signs may include a slight fever and pain behind the ear. However, once Bell's Palsy begins, its progression is unavoidable. Consulting a healthcare professional becomes crucial to ensure an accurate diagnosis. Early detection enables appropriate management tailored to the unique presentation of symptoms.
It is advised not to ignore symptoms just because you are young. There have also been reported cases of Bell's Palsy at Young age.
Diagnosis & Treatment
Healthcare providers may order tests to rule out conditions similar to Bell's Palsy. The tests may also help in evaluating nerve involvement. Here are a few commonly prescribed tests:
1. Electromyography (EMG):
- Used to determine the extent of nerve involvement.
2. Blood Tests:
- Conducted to identify underlying conditions like diabetes or Lyme disease.
3. Imaging Techniques:
- Magnetic resonance imaging or computed tomography scans help identify structural causes.
After diagnosis, healthcare professionals recommend treatments according to the symptoms. Some of the commonly prescribed treatment methods are:
4. Eye Protection:
- Vital for preventing corneal damage, especially during sleep or extended computer use. Involves eye drops, ointment, or a moisture chamber.
5. Medical Treatments:
- If an identifiable cause like infection exists, it's addressed. Otherwise, symptoms are managed with various approaches.
- Prescribed to reduce inflammation, particularly effective if started within 48 hours of symptom onset.
7. Antiviral Medications:
- Reserved for severe cases, often combined with steroids for enhanced efficacy.
8. Analgesics and Moist Heat:
- Relieves pain associated with Bell's Palsy.
9. Physical Therapy:
- Stimulates the facial nerve, aiding in overall recovery.
Bell's Palsy resolves on its own, but medical attention is essential for symptom management. Patience is of utmost importance. The management approach, tailored to symptom severity, incorporates a range of methods. The methods range from protective eye care to medical treatments. Potential surgical options are also recommended for persistent cases.
The onset of Bell's Palsy cannot be prevented. But, understanding its association with viral infections offers valuable insights. Only some people with these infections experience Bell's Palsy, underscoring its complex nature. However, individuals with identified risk factors, such as diabetes, obesity, or high blood pressure, are considered at higher risk. Proactively managing these conditions emerges as a potential method to manage the risk of developing Bell's Palsy. Young individuals must also be aware of the symptoms of Bell Palsy. Cases of Bell's Palsy at a young age are not unheard of.
Although the condition's origin remains unknown, this article discusses a holistic approach to health, emphasizing the importance of addressing underlying factors that may contribute to the manifestation of Bell's Palsy.
The Author : Dr. Sunil Khattri
Dr. Sunil Khattri MBBS, MS(General Surgery), LLB, is a Medical doctor and is a practicing Advocate in the Supreme Court of India and National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, New Delhi.