Palsy is a medical condition that causes muscle weakness, tremors and/or paralysis in the body.
Bell’s palsy, also known as acute facial palsy, is said to be present when these symptoms occur in the face. The result is that a part of the face may appear to droop, one eye may not close properly when blinking and the patient’s ability to smile is affected as only one side of the face can move. In most cases, the condition is a temporary one and improves over the space of a few weeks.
There is no specific age group that is in the greatest danger of the condition developing – it can occur at any age.
Causes and Symptoms
The exact cause of Bell’s palsy is not known although it is generally believed that it is the result of inflammation and swelling that affects the nerves that control the movement of one side of the face. Viral infections are also thought to be a contributing factor to the development of the problem.
When the condition does develop, it typically starts to improve within a few weeks and complete recovery usually occurs within 6 months. In a few cases, some patients continue to suffer from muscle weakness, tremors and paralysis, in some form, for the rest of their lives. Once a person recovers from Bell’s palsy, a recurrence of the condition is extremely rare. Bell’s palsycan affect either side of the face. In exceedingly rare cases, both sides are affected.
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The symptoms of the condition appear very quickly and may include, but are not limited to:
- The development of muscle weakness, or even paralysis, on one side of the face. This can happen in a few hours to a few days.
- Drooping of one side of the face with difficulty in making normal facial expressions such as smiling or closing the eye on the affected side.
- The sense of taste is reduced or completely lost.
- Sound sensitivity on the affected side increases – what is normal volume may be very loud to a person with Bell’s palsy.
- Drooling from the mouth
- There may be pain near the jaw or ear on the side of the face that is affected.
A person experiencing any type of facial paralysis or tremors should consult a doctor without delay.
The symptoms of Bell’s palsy may alarm the person thinking that a stroke, which can be a life-threatening condition, is imminent. Bell’s Palsy is not a life threatening condition.
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There is no specific test that is used to diagnose the condition. After a physical examination, the doctor may order other tests and scans to confirm its presence. It is for this reason that is is critical that a suspected case of Bell’s palsy be diagnosed and treated at a hospital that has the various specialized departments and centers of excellence that will ensure a complete and accurate diagnosis and treatment if required.
Treatment will normally take the form of:
- Medications in the form of antiviral drugs and corticosteroids
- Physical therapy
- In a few cases a decompressive surgery at an early phase, or plastic surgery later, may be recommended to correct nerve problems.
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