Causes of Pediatric Bell’s Palsy
Pediatric Bell’s palsy can affect any child. It causes facial weakness due to damage to the 7th cranial (facial) nerve that leads to paralysis on one side of the face or head. There is no single cause of pediatric Bell’s palsy.
It is important to understand there are differences between congenital facial paralysis and Bell’s palsy in kids. Congenital facial paralysis is a type of facial palsy that affects children at birth. It is a rare condition that makes it difficult for a newborn to fully open or close the eyes. If congenital facial paralysis goes unaddressed, it may impact the development of a child’s ability to make emotional expressions and speak.
Bell’s palsy in kids often results in sudden facial paralysis. A pediatric Bell’s palsy patient may experience a sensation in the face that makes it difficult to perform facial movements. Pediatric Bell’s palsy symptoms may vary. A pediatric Bell’s palsy patient may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Discomfort around the jaw and/or behind the ear
- Drooping of the eyelid and/or corner of the mouth
- Dryness of the eye or mouth
- Excess tearing in one eye
- Impairment of taste
- Mild facial weakness
- Ringing in one or both ears
- Twitching or paralysis of one or both sides of the face
A child who experiences any of the aforementioned symptoms should immediately go to an emergency room for diagnosis. A doctor will treat a pediatric Bell’s palsy patient based on the individual’s symptoms and medical history. Common treatment options for pediatric Bell’s palsy include:
- Analgesics to alleviate pain
- Physical therapy to stimulate the facial nerve
- Steroid medications to limit inflammation
In many cases, pediatric Bell’s palsy symptoms will disappear on their own within a few months. If the symptoms linger for eight months or longer, a consultation with Dr. Babak Azizzadeh of The Facial Paralysis Institute may be necessary to address this condition.
Dr. Azizzadeh has dual certification in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery and otolaryngology (head and neck surgery). His extensive expertise has made him one of the most sought-after facial plastic and reconstructive surgeons for treatment of pediatric Bell’s palsy and facial paralysis.
Dr. Azizzadeh takes a holistic approach to pediatric Bell’s palsy treatments. He understands that each patient is unique and will learn about a patient to provide a personalized plan. Dr. Azizzadeh also employs a team of facial paralysis experts who can diagnose Bell’s palsy in children.
To address pediatric Bell’s palsy symptoms, Dr. Azizzadeh will meet with a patient. He will learn about a patient’s medical history and pediatric Bell’s palsy symptoms and perform a series of tests to evaluate the individual’s condition. Then, Dr. Azizzadeh can determine which facial reanimation treatment will work best.
In some cases, Dr. Azizzadeh may recommend Botox to treat pediatric Bell’s palsy. He generally recommends Botox when the patients are in their teen years, but in some cases may start Botox treatments at a younger age. He will determine this after evaluating a pediatric patient.
Botox uses a protein derived from the botulinum toxin to counteract pediatric Bell’s palsy symptoms. It helps relax unwanted muscle movements on the normal side of the face and reduces tension in areas of the face that are hyperactive due to synkinesis.Botox treatments are generally painless, and injections take only a few minutes to administer. Pediatric Bell’s palsy patients usually can return to their normal daily activities immediately after Botox treatments.
It takes one to two weeks to see the full results of Botox treatments, and the results last approximately four months. After Botox wears off, a pediatric Bell’s palsy patient needs to return to the Facial Paralysis Institute for another treatment with Dr. Azizzadeh.
In addition to surgical treatment, Dr. Azizzadeh may also recommend neuromuscular retraining (NMR) with an expert physical therapist. NMR requires a patient to work with a physical therapist to identify facial muscles that are contracting abnormally and retraining the coordination of appropriate facial muscle movements. It involves a multi-stage process that enables a pediatric Bell’s palsy patient to retrain the facial muscles at the neurological (brain) level.
Before undergoing NMR, a pediatric Bell’s palsy patient will be evaluated by an expert neuromuscular therapist to determine the proper exercises. Each pediatric Bell’s palsy patient has a distinct functional profile, and there is no one physical therapy protocol that works for everyone. After the evaluation, a patient will learn the exact exercises for maximum benefit.
Dr. Azizzadeh is happy to evaluate a pediatric Bell’s palsy patient and provide insights into both surgical and non-surgical treatments. To schedule a consultation with Dr. Azizzadeh, please call us today at (310) 657-2203.
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