Bell’s palsy is a medical condition that results in immediate facial paralysis on one side of the face. The paralysis can cause people to experience facial drooping and impact their sense of taste. Bell’s palsy can also make it difficult for patients to create saliva and tears.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NIH) points out that Bell’s palsy impacts approximately 40,000 Americans annually. However, many Bell’s palsy myths persist that cause people to forgo treatment.
At The Facial Paralysis Institute, we’re here to educate individuals about Bell’s palsy and it’s short- and long-term effects. As such, we’re ready to put common Bell’s palsy myths to rest.
5 Bell’s Palsy Myths You Need to Know About
Here are five common myths about living with Bell’s palsy.
1. Bell’s Palsy Causes Permanent Facial Paralysis.
NIH defines Bell’s palsy as a form of temporary facial paralysis that is caused by damage or trauma to the facial nerve.
With Bell’s palsy, the facial nerve that directs muscles on one side of the face is disrupted. This interferes with the messages that the brain sends to facial muscles, resulting in temporary facial paralysis.
In 85 percent of Bell’s palsy cases, facial paralysis goes away on its own. However, in approximately 15 percent of patients, the facial nerve function does not return to normal. With treatment, a Bell’s palsy patient may restore a portion of their facial nerve function. But, full function may not return. In cases where a patient experiences temporary facial paralysis for a minimum of eight months, meet with expert facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dr. Babak Azizzadeh. In doing so, Dr. Azizzadeh can evaluate the patient and explore various treatment options.
2. There Is a Direct Link Between Bell’s Palsy and Cold Air.
Exposure to cold has not been shown to contribute to Bell’s palsy symptoms. Also, there is no direct link between Bell’s palsy and fans. Therefore, people who spend an extended period of time in front of a fan on a hot day do not face a greater of Bell’s palsy symptoms than others.
3. There Is No Surefire Treatment for Bell’s Palsy.
Although Bell’s palsy may seem difficult to overcome, many treatments are available to help patients dealing with long-standing Bell’s palsy.
Selective neurolysis is one of the most common Bell’s palsy treatments. This procedure involves releasing the platysma muscle, i.e. the muscle that pulls the face downward, and reducing activity in nerves that work against the smile mechanism. That way, selective neurolysis helps a Bell’s palsy patient regain the ability to smile.
Botox can be an effective non-surgical treatment for Bell’s palsy. It is frequently used as a cosmetic treatment to reduce the signs of aging in the face. And, when Botox is injected by a facial nerve expert, it has been shown to help Bell’s palsy patients restore facial symmetry and improve their facial appearance.
Clearly, there are many viable treatments for Bell’s palsy. By meeting with Dr. Azizzadeh, Bell’s palsy patients can learn about these treatments and find one that matches or exceeds their expectations.
4. Chewing Gum for Bell’s Palsy Offers a Viable Treatment.
Some Bell’s palsy patients initially believe that chewing gum can stimulate facial muscle movement. Thus, they may chew gum at symptomatic onset in the hopes that it will allow them to correct Bell’s palsy without further medical treatment.
Chewing gum for Bell’s palsy is ineffective. This is due to the fact that chewing is performed by the muscles of mastication supplied by the trigeminal nerve. Furthermore, chewing gum can inadvertently increase the risk of facial synkinesis.
5. In General, the Prognosis for Bell’s Palsy Patients Is Not Good.
Bell’s palsy may seem like a long-term problem, but NIH states the prognosis for Bell’s palsy patients is “generally very good.”
Those dealing with Bell’s palsy may start to symptomatic improvement within the first two weeks, NIH notes. In addition, NIH states most Bell’s palsy patients fully recover from temporary facial paralysis within about three to six months.
5 Bell’s Palsy Facts You Need to Know About
Along with myths, let’s look at five important facts about Bell’s palsy.
1. There Is No Known Cause of Bell’s Palsy.
The exact cause of Bell’s palsy remains unknown. But, Bell’s palsy is commonly viewed as a viral infection. To date, research has linked Bell’s palsy has been linked to the herpes simplex virus, which can cause cold sores and genital herpes. It has also been connected to the herpes zoster virus, cytomegalovirus, and Epstein-Barr virus.
2. Bell’s Palsy Can Affect Anyone, Regardless of Age.
Men, women, and children can experience Bell’s palsy symptoms at any age. Bell’s palsy has been shown to affect patients of different races and genders equally, too.
3. Those Who Are Pregnant or Dealing with Diabetes Face an Increased Risk of Developing Bell’s Palsy.
Women who are pregnant face a higher risk of Bell’s palsy than non-pregnant women. Pregnant women are increasingly prone to Bell’s palsy symptoms in the third trimester or in the first few days after birth.
4. Bell’s Palsy That Goes Unaddressed Can Cause Long-Term Health Problems.
If Bell’s palsy symptoms linger for more than a month, they can cause serious health issues. For some Bell’s palsy patients, partial or complete blindness in the eye on the paralyzed side of the face can occur. These patients are also susceptible to irreversible damage to the facial nerve and/or abnormal regrowth of nerve fibers.
5. Bell’s Palsy Should Be Treated Immediately.
At the first sign of facial paralysis or Bell’s palsy, it is paramount to seek medical treatment. This allows a doctor to perform a medical evaluation to assess the severity of a patient’s symptoms. Plus, the doctor can provide a personalized treatment recommendation to help the patient alleviate their symptoms as quickly and effectively as possible.
Along with pregnant women, those who are dealing with diabetes face a greater risk of Bell’s palsy than others. Research has shown that there may be a correlation between poor glycemic control and the development of Bell palsy in adult patients coping with diabetes.
Learn More About Bell’s Palsy
For those who want to learn more about Bell’s palsy, Dr. Azizzadeh can provide additional insights into the condition. Dr. Azizzadeh offers in-person and virtual consultations to those who are exploring Bell’s palsy treatment options. To schedule a consultation with Dr. Azizzadeh, please contact us online or call us today at (310) 657-2203.