Bell’s palsy is a neurological disorder that causes facial paralysis or weakness on one side of the face. It is also the leading cause of facial paralysis in the United States.
Bell’s palsy disrupts the facial nerve and interrupts messages that the brain sends to the facial muscles. When this happens, an individual experiences facial paralysis or weakness.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke reports Bell’s palsy affects about 40,000 people in the United States annually. Bell’s palsy affects men and women of all ages but is less likely to impact individuals under the age of 15 or above the age of 60.
There are several risk factors linked to Bell’s palsy. Research indicates pregnant women face a greater risk of Bell’s palsy during the third trimester or one week after giving birth. Additionally, those who are dealing with a cold, flu or other respiratory ailments may be more prone than others to Bell’s palsy.
Bell’s Palsy Symptoms: Here’s What You Need to Know
Bell’s palsy causes sudden paralysis of the facial muscles. This often leads to facial drooping and hampers an individual’s ability to close the eye on the paralyzed side of the face. Also, other Bell’s palsy symptoms include:
- Sensitivity to sound on the affected side of the face
- Jaw pain
- Pain behind the ear on the affected side of the face
Bell’s palsy sometimes affects the nerves on both sides of the face, too. However, with a safe, effective Bell’s palsy treatment, an individual can address his or her facial paralysis symptoms.
How to Treat Bell’s Palsy Symptoms
If a person is dealing with Bell’s palsy symptoms, it is important to consult with a physician immediately. At this time, a physician evaluates a patient’s Bell’s palsy symptoms and develops a treatment plan.
Several tests are commonly performed to evaluate a patient’s Bell’s palsy symptoms. These tests include:
- Ear, nose and throat (ENT) evaluation
- Tearing test
- Neurologic assessment
- Hearing test
- Vestibular test
The best treatment for Bell’s palsy varies, and each Bell’s palsy treatment is tailored to a patient. Following an initial Bell’s palsy diagnosis, a patient may receive high-dose steroids or antiviral medications. In most cases, the facial nerve functions will return to normal within about 6 months. After this time, if a Bell’s palsy patient is still experiencing paralysis, it is time to meet with a facial nerve expert to determine long-term treatment options.
The most innovative long-term Bell’s palsy treatment is called selective neurolysis, also referred to as modified selective neurectomy. The procedure, developed by globally recognized facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dr. Babak Azizzadeh, is the first permanent Bell’s palsy treatment.
During a selective neurolysis procedure, Dr. Azizzadeh maps out the facial nerves and muscles and selectively deactivates any nerves that are counterproductive to a normal smile and facial movements. This leads to spontaneous facial reanimation, as well as a natural-looking smile.
Selective neurolysis is performed as an outpatient procedure. It has less downtime and fewer risks in contrast to similar facial paralysis surgeries. Plus, Bell’s palsy patients may see the initial results of a selective neurolysis procedure as soon as the day after surgery.
Meanwhile, Botox injections are among the most common treatments for Bell’s palsy. Botox is often a top choice for cosmetic procedures, it has also been shown to help Bell’s palsy patients restore facial symmetry and improve their facial appearance.
Botox injections temporarily relax hyperactive muscles in the face. They may be used in combination with neuromuscular retraining, which coordinates proper muscle movements.
Finally, neuromuscular retraining can be a great treatment for Bell’s palsy in the appropriate candidate. The therapy gradually recreates the brain-to-nerve-to-muscle routine to help Bell’s palsy patients regain control of facial movements and expressions. It is provided by an expert physical therapist, who evaluates a Bell’s palsy patient and offers exercise recommendations based on this individual’s symptoms.
Each neuromuscular retraining program is customized to a Bell’s palsy patient and must be followed closely. Once a Bell’s palsy patient learns the proper facial exercises, he or she can perform them independently. And over time, a Bell’s palsy patient can improve his or her facial strength and coordination.
Is Bell’s Palsy Curable?
Research shows approximately 85 percent of patients recover from Bell’s palsy without any lingering health issues. It also indicates 10 percent of Bell’s palsy patients deal with synkinesis and partial facial paralysis after treatment, and the remaining 5 percent require additional support.
For people who have been dealing with Bell’s palsy symptoms for eight months or longer, Dr. Azizzadeh can help. Dr. Azizzadeh is a dual board-certified facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon who offers personalized Bell’s palsy treatments. He is happy to meet with a Bell’s palsy patient, learn about his or her symptoms and create a custom treatment plan. Then, Dr. Azizzadeh will work diligently to help this patient address his or her Bell’s palsy symptoms.
Schedule a Bell’s Palsy Treatment Consultation with Dr. Azizzadeh Today
Dr. Azizzadeh is available to meet with Bell’s palsy patients. To set up a treatment consultation with Dr. Azizzadeh, please call us today at (424) 512-1589.
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