Overcoming Effects of Facial Paralysis
No matter how or why it occurs, facial paralysis can be a distressing condition to deal with. The facial muscles and nerves perform many important tasks, from helping people express emotion to allowing them to eat and breathe efficiently. Here at the Facial Paralysis Institute in Los Angeles, we understand that overcoming paralysis is a long and difficult process. Because of this, we are doing everything in our power to provide our patients with ways to successfully recover.
At the helm of the Facial Paralysis Institute is Dr. Babak Azizzadeh, Harvard-trained, double-board certified facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon who has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show and other media outlets to share his expertise. Dr. Azizzadeh and his expert team of facial plastic surgeons, otolaryngologists, neuro-otologists, neurosurgeons, head and neck surgeons, ophthalmologists, and physical therapists can help facial paralysis patients regain movement in the face.
WHAT CAN CAUSE FACIAL PARALYSIS?
Several issues can cause facial paralysis. Most of the time inhibited movement in the face is caused by swelling, compression, or damage to the seventh cranial nerve. Also called the facial nerve, this nerve reaches from the brainstem and into both sides of the face through small openings in the skull.
The seventh cranial nerve stimulates the muscles in the face, allowing them to move as they should. It also stimulates the gland responsible for tears, the gland in the tongue that allows people to taste, and the muscle in the ear that helps mitigate loud noises. When damaged, some or all of these functions can be impaired.
Some cancer patients may wake up with facial paralysis after surgery to remove a tumor in the face, brain, or neck. While surgeons do their best not to disrupt the seventh cranial nerve, in some cases, it cannot be avoided and it may be more important to remove the life-threatening tumor even with the associated risks of surgery.
Other patients may be born with facial paralysis due to trauma during birth, resulting in a condition called facial nerve palsy. If facial paralysis develops later in life and comes on suddenly, it may be due to Bell’s palsy, the name used to describe sudden-onset facial paralysis due to swelling or compression of the seventh cranial nerve. Different viruses or infections, including Epstein-Barr (mononucleosis) and Lyme disease, can cause swelling of the facial nerve.
Trauma to the face can also cause paralysis, as can trauma to the skull. No matter the cause, overcoming paralysis can be difficult, but Dr. Azizzadeh and the team at the Facial Paralysis Institute are here to take care of each facial paralysis patient who comes through the door, whether it’s with therapy, Botox treatments, or facial paralysis surgery.
SYMPTOMS OF PARALYSIS IN THE FACE
The most common symptoms that patients may experience with facial paralysis are:
- Difficulty closing one or both eyes all the way
- Decreased tear production
- A crooked, asymmetrical smile
- Altered ability to taste
- Trouble breathing through the nose, often due to a collapsed nostril
- Pain around the ear
- Inability to properly clear food from the mouth during meals
- Involuntary muscle contraction when attempting to smile or blink (synkinesis)
- Forehead paralysis
If a patient wakes up with symptoms of facial paralysis after surgery, they should seek immediate emergency medical treatment to rule out a stroke. This is also true for patients who experience rapid-onset facial paralysis, as in the case of Bell’s palsy. Patients are encouraged to ask their medical providers to consider treatments that can help reduce inflammation in the days immediately after, such as steroids. This may improve the chance of a full recovery from paralysis.
Many cases of facial paralysis resolve on their own within one to three months, but if symptoms last longer than three months, therapy with Dr. Azizzadeh and his team may be needed. For symptoms that last longer than eight months, additional measures may need to be taken to restore facial function.
TREATING FACIAL PARALYSIS
One of the main tools in this process of helping patients recover from facial paralysis is the use of physical therapy to supplement our non-surgical and surgical interventions. Our goal is to provide a physical therapy program that will help facilitate facial symmetry and improve facial paralysis. In many instances, it is not the strength of the muscle movements but rather the coordination of the face that needs to be treated. Many patients have tightness of muscles that create discomfort in addition to impeding appropriate smile mechanisms.
With the proper exercise and physical therapy, facial paralysis patients may be able to recover some of their lost facial movements and regain the animation in their facial expressions. Our staff is committed to being right by your side throughout the entire smile restoration process. Our customized physical therapy colleagues plan customized treatment around your personal prognosis and the severity of the condition.
To provide you with a better understanding of what you can expect from our physical therapy options, we have created the list below of facial paralysis and Bell’s palsy treatments.
NEUROMUSCULAR RETRAINING (NMR)
This treatment entails using subtle but critically important exercises to retrain your brain to use its facial muscles more effectively and efficiently. NMR therapy is guided by a specially trained physical therapist.
This is a series of different massage techniques performed by our renowned physical therapist colleagues. Our therapists focus on the muscles of the face that are spastic and tight to regain facial animation and balance on each side of the face.
Botox treatment can be an effective way to treat Bell’s palsy, facial paralysis, and synkinesis (muscle spasming). This treatment only lasts for three to six months, after which patients must receive further Botox treatments from Dr. Azizzadeh. Botox is often paired with neuromuscular retraining therapy for overcoming paralysis.
FACIAL PARALYSIS SURGERY
If facial paralysis symptoms have not improved within eight months after onset, patients may need to discuss facial paralysis surgery options with Dr. Azizzadeh and his team. Dr. Azizzadeh may recommend selective neurolysis, leading-edge treatment for muscle spasms, facial paralysis, and Bell’s palsy. This surgery helps patients regain some of their lost ability to smile.
Dr. Azizzadeh may also recommend gold eyelid weight implantation for patients who cannot fully close one or both eyes. He may also decide to perform a leading-edge procedure, such as cross-facial nerve grafting, masseteric muscle transfer, temporalis tendon transfer, and gracilis muscle transplants are additional facial paralysis surgery options that can help with overcoming paralysis.
SCHEDULE A CONSULTATION
If you would like to know more about ways to overcome the effects of facial paralysis, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with Dr. Azizzadeh and his staff. During your initial consultation, Dr. Azizzadeh will explain what your physical therapy treatment options are, how you can benefit from our physical therapy program, and what you can expect from the treatment. If needed, he may also recommend Botox or surgical treatment options.
If you are suffering from this life-altering condition, let Dr. Azizzadeh and his staff help you reanimate your smile. To schedule your initial consultation, contact us online or give us a call at (310) 657-2203 today!