Does Bell’s Palsy Reoccur? Here’s What You Need to Know
Bell’s palsy is one of the primary causes of facial paralysis worldwide. And, in some instances, it can be a recurring issue.
What Is Recurrent Bell’s Palsy?
Bell’s palsy causes facial muscle weakness. It can affect people at any age and causes facial paralysis and other physical symptoms that generally disappear on their own.
Recurrent Bell’s palsy refers to facial muscle weakness that occurs on multiple occasions. For instance, a patient can experience Bell’s palsy symptoms that last for a few weeks or months. The symptoms can subside on their own. Or, the patient can undergo treatment to alleviate their symptoms. Yet, if the symptoms reappear at a later date, the patient may be dealing with recurring Bell’s palsy.
How Common Is Recurring Bell’s Palsy?
Some researchers estimate recurrent Bell’s palsy occurs in about 8% cases. Comparatively, a study of 185 Bell’s palsy patients between the ages of 4 and 70 revealed 12% of participants experienced recurrent partial or complete facial paralysis. This study also indicated recurrent Bell’s palsy is more likely in the first two years after the condition’s onset. Another study showed recurring Bell’s palsy affected more than 15% of patients, some of whom experience the condition in combination with diabetes and hypertension.
Regardless of whether Bell’s palsy is a one-time or recurrent issue, the condition must be diagnosed and treated properly. That way, a Bell’s palsy patient can limit the risk of long-lasting facial paralysis.
Why Does Bell’s Palsy Reoccur?
Researchers continue to investigate recurrent Bell’s palsy and why it occurs. To date, researchers have studied whether diabetes, hypertension, and pregnancy can increase the risk of multiple occurrences of Bell’s palsy. Also, they have evaluated the potential impact of schwannomas (nervous system tumors), genetics, chromosomal mutations, and fibrous dysplasia (disorder that causes scar-like tissue to form in lieu of normal bone) on recurring Bell’s palsy. However, it remains unknown if any of the aforementioned issues can result in recurrent Bell’s palsy.
Questions persist about the exact cause of non-recurrent Bell’s palsy as well. Thus far, research shows Bell’s palsy can occur when herpes simplex virus (HSV) gets reactivated in the temporal bone, which contains the middle and inner parts of the ear. In this instance, the facial nerve becomes swollen, often leading to instant facial paralysis and other symptoms.
Bell’s Palsy Recurrence Symptoms
Recurrent Bell’s palsy can cause a wide range of symptoms, including:
- Numbness or pain behind the ear
- Sudden facial paralysis on one side of the face
- Inability to blink or close the eyelid
- Difficulty chewing
- Facial muscle twitching
- Reduced sense of taste
The severity of recurring Bell’s palsy symptoms range from mild to severe. If left uncorrected, these symptoms can become permanent.
Bell’s Palsy Recurrence Diagnosis
If recurring Bell’s palsy symptoms appear, go to an emergency room. At this point, a doctor can evaluate their patient and perform tests to determine if he or she is dealing with Bell’s palsy.
A doctor may use one or more of the following tests to diagnose Bell’s palsy:
- Lab test for Lyme disease
- Thyroid function test
- HIV and hepatitis test
- Neurologic and ear, nose and throat (ENT) evaluation
In addition, a doctor may perform a tearing function evaluation, a computed tomography (CT) scan, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam. These tests are used to identify the root cause of a patient’s facial paralysis.
A doctor can also perform an electromyography (EMG) or electroneurography (ENoG) to diagnose Bell’s palsy. These tests are usually administered to Bell’s palsy patients who are dealing with severe cases of facial paralysis.
Ultimately, a doctor requires as much medical information as possible from their patient to provide him or her with an accurate diagnosis. So, it is paramount for a patient to tell their doctor if he or she previously experienced Bell’s palsy. The doctor can then review their patient’s medical history and conduct additional testing as needed. He or she can also work diligently on their patient’s behalf to properly treat their Bell’s palsy symptoms.
Does Recurring Bell’s Palsy Require Medical Treatment?
It is always better to err on the side of caution, particularly when it comes to treating Bell’s palsy. By meeting with a doctor, a patient can receive expert support to address their Bell’s palsy symptoms. A doctor can help a patient determine a safe and effective way to treat these symptoms and minimize the risk of recurrence as well.
In most cases, Bell’s palsy symptoms disappear on their own within about six to nine months of the condition’s onset. To treat these symptoms, a doctor may prescribe corticosteroids or antiviral medications. A doctor may also recommend physical therapy, so their patient can learn exercises he or she can use to strengthen and improve the coordination of their facial muscles. There may be times when a patient is a good candidate for Botox injections, which can temporarily correct facial paralysis caused by Bell’s palsy.
If Bell’s palsy symptoms persist for eight months or longer or recur, a treatment consultation with Dr. Babak Azizzadeh of The Facial Paralysis Institute can be beneficial. At this point, Dr. Azizzadeh can evaluate a patient and find out if he or she qualifies for surgery.
How Does Dr. Azizzadeh Treat Recurrent Bell’s Palsy?
Recurrent Bell’s palsy treatment varies based on the patient and the severity of their symptoms. Dr. Azizzadeh takes a holistic approach to treat his patients’ Bell’s palsy symptoms. He understands each Bell’s palsy case is unique and dedicates the necessary time and resources to learn about his patient and provide him or her with a custom treatment plan.
Initially, a Bell’s palsy patient may receive high-dose steroids (prednisone) and antiviral medications (Famvir or Valtrex). If a patient previously used these or other medications to treat Bell’s palsy in the past, he or she may benefit from them once again. Recurring Bell’s palsy may also be treated with physical therapy and Botox. In certain instances, a combination of medications, physical therapy, and/or Botox can help Bell’s palsy patients address their symptoms as well.
If a patient experiences recurring Bell’s palsy symptoms over an extended period of time, Dr. Azizzadeh may recommend surgery. He offers two surgery options to Bell’s palsy patients: a selective neurolysis procedure and a “supercharging” or “signal upgrading” surgery.
Dr. Azizzadeh performs selective neurolysis to help patients permanently correct facial paralysis associated with recurring Bell’s palsy. During the procedure, Dr. Azizzadeh uses an intraoperative EMG to map out his patient’s facial nerves. Dr. Azizzadeh then decreases the activity of the facial nerves that otherwise prevent his patient from smiling. Next, Dr. Azizzadeh releases the platysma muscle that pulls the corner of a patient’s mouth down. This results in spontaneous reanimation of a patient’s face and enables him or her to produce a natural-looking smile.
Meanwhile, Dr. Azizzadeh offers a supercharging procedure that can boost the power of a patient’s facial nerve. At the same time, the procedure can strengthen weak smile muscles and preserve their basic function.
What Is the Best Treatment for Recurring Bell’s Palsy?
The best treatment for recurring Bell’s palsy depends on the patient. Dr. Azizzadeh tailors a recurrent Bell’s palsy treatment to his patient. He learns about his patient’s symptoms and when he or she previously experienced Bell’s palsy. Dr. Azizzadeh also reviews his patient’s medical history, so he can provide him or her with a treatment that won’t compromise their overall health.
Furthermore, Dr. Azizzadeh monitors his patient’s progress over the course of a treatment. He wants his patients to achieve long-term results. Therefore, he requests follow-up appointments with his patients to assess the effectiveness of recurring Bell’s palsy treatments.
Bell’s Palsy Recurrence Prevention
No one is immune to Bell’s palsy. Thus, there is no solution to stop Bell’s palsy or prevent it from recurring.
Conversely, people who experience Bell’s palsy symptoms once or several times should seek out medical treatment right away. These symptoms can impact a person’s overall health for many years after onset. But, with immediate diagnosis and treatment, an individual can prevent Bell’s palsy symptoms from becoming long-term issues.
Dealing with Recurrent Bell’s Palsy? Schedule a Consultation with Dr. Azizzadeh
There is no need to let Bell’s palsy symptoms become recurring problems. By meeting with Dr. Azizzadeh, a patient can get insights into recurring Bell’s palsy and receive an in-depth evaluation. He or she can also explore treatment options to alleviate their symptoms now and in the future.
Dr. Azizzadeh is happy to evaluate patients who have been coping with Bell’s palsy symptoms for eight months or longer. He offers in-person consultations in Beverly Hills and virtual consultations via Zoom to patients who are experiencing these symptoms for the first time or have previously dealt with them. For more information or to request a consultation with Dr. Azizzadeh, contact us online or call us today at (310) 923-7793.