What's Bells Palsy
What's Bells Palsy?
is a form of temporary facial paralysis resulting from damage or trauma to one of the two facial nerves.
It is the most common cause of facial paralysis.
Generally, Bells palsy affects only one of the paired facial nerves and one side of the face, however, in rare cases, it can affect both sides.
Symptoms of Bells palsy usually begin suddenly and reach their peak within 48 hours.
Symptoms range in severity from mild weakness to total paralysis and may include twitching, weakness, or paralysis, drooping eyelid or corner of the mouth, drooling, dry eye or mouth, impairment of taste, and excessive tearing in the eye.
Bells palsy often causes significant facial distortion. Most scientists believe that a viral infection such as viral meningitis or the common cold sore virus -- herpes simplex-- causes the disorder when the facial nerve swells and becomes inflamed in reaction to the infection.
Is there any treatment?
There is no cure or standard course of treatment for Bells palsy.
The most important factor in treatment is to eliminate the source of the nerve damage. Some cases are mild and do not require treatment since the symptoms usually subside on their own within 2 weeks.
For others, treatment may include medications such as acyclovir -- used to fight viral infections -- combined with an anti-inflammatory drug such as the steroid prednisone -- used to reduce inflammation and swelling.
Analgesics such as aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen may relieve pain, but because of possible drug interactions, patients should always talk to their doctors before taking any over-the-counter medicines.
In general, decompression surgery for Bells palsy -- to relieve pressure on the nerve -- is controversial and is seldom recommended.
What is the prognosis?
The prognosis for individuals with Bells palsy is generally very good. The extent of nerve damage determines the extent of recovery.
With or without treatment, most individuals begin to get better within 2 weeks after the initial onset of symptoms and recover completely within 3 to 6 months.
What research is being done?
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) conducts research related to Bells palsy in its laboratories at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and also supports additional research through grants to major medical institutions across the country.
Part of this research program is focused on learning more about the circumstances and conditions that cause nerve damage.
Other NINDS-supported research is aimed at developing methods to repair damaged nerves and restore full use and strength to injured areas.
Knowledge gained from this research may help scientists find the definitive cause of Bells palsy and lead to more effective treatments for the disorder.
National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) P.O. Box 1968 (55 Kenosia Avenue) Danbury, CT 06813-1968 [email protected] http://www.rarediseases.org Tel: 203-744-0100 Voice Mail 800-999-NORD (6673) Fax: 203-798-2291
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