July 14, 2008
5 Things You Didn’t Know About Bell’s Palsy
5 THINGS YOU DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT ... BELL'S PALSY
1. Symptoms: The nerve that controls your facial muscles becomes swollen or compressed, causing half of your face to temporarily paralyze or weaken and appear to droop. This often happens suddenly and may be accompanied by headache, loss of taste and changes in the amount of saliva and tears your body produces. A warning sign may be neck pain or pain in or behind the ear before the onset of Bell's Palsy.
2. Danger: If Bell's Palsy prevents you from closing your eye, you'll need to keep the eye moist with eyedrops during the day and an eye ointment at night. If your cornea becomes too dry, it can cause permanent vision loss.
3. Causes: Viral infections such as viral meningitis, herpes simplex, shingles and chicken pox can lead to the disorder. Bacterial infections such as Lyme disease and tuberculosis, as well as a skull fracture, can also lead to Bell's Palsy.
4. Risk factors: Bell's Palsy occurs most often in people who have diabetes, HIV or an upper respiratory infection such as a cold or the flu. Pregnant women also are at risk, especially those in the last trimester.
5. Treatments: Some cases subside on their own within weeks. For other cases, corticosteroids and antiviral medications are prescribed to relieve facial compression. Massaging and exercising facial muscles may be helpful. Surgery to relieve pressure on the facial nerve is rarely recommended. Most people recover completely, with or without treatment, within six months.
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