If there is one thing that you should know about Bell’s Palsy it is that, in fact, there are no known definite causes of the condition. Bell’s Palsy is the name given to facial paralysis that has no identifiable cause, and it is therefore quite difficult to pin-down and understand.
It is thought that Bell’s Palsy is probably caused by a viral infection of the seventh cranial nerve (the nerve that serves much of the face, controlling expression and taste). Other theories suggest it could be the herpes zoster or herpes simplex virus causing the problem, and even when someone suffers the main symptoms of this kind of infection, it can stay in the nerve for years. Then, when something triggers it the nerve becomes inflamed and facial paralysis occurs.
Instead of concentrating on what we don’t know about Bell’s Palsy, we at the Facial Paralysis Institute like to concentrate on what we do know, and what we can do with that knowledge. Bell’s Palsy is caused by a dysfunctioning seventh cranial nerve, and the fact that it’s most likely caused by a viral infection means that we can treat it early with anti-viral drugsand steroids. If you’ve got eczema then you’ll know that putting steroid cream on the skin reduces the inflammation; oral steroids act in a similar way on nerves, too.
Early surgical intervention can be considered when Bell’s Palsy becomes a permanent condition. This happens when the inflammation has been present for too long and the nerve has been damaged. Surgery is also particularly beneficial when Bell’s Palsy is caused by a severely trapped or compressed seventh cranial nerve. In this case the surgeon can relieve the pressure, and the nerve is able to send messages to-and-from the brain again. Physiotherapy, Botox, and neuromuscular retraining are two treatments that compliment surgery on Bell’s Palsy patients who have not had full recovery of facial movements.
Of course it would be fantastic to know for certain what the exact causes of Bell’s Palsy are, but for now we are grateful that we have the resources to treat it and allow sufferers a pathway back to their normal life with full expressions and a social life.
If you’re unfamiliar with surgery to treat Bell’s Palsy, why not watch our video on how Dr. Babak Aizzadeh helped Mary-Jo Butafuocco overcome her facial paralysis following a gunshot wound.This may be an extreme case, but it shows how simple it is to regain facial expression and normality after suffering the permanent effects of Bell’s Palsy.
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