Bell’s palsy describes temporary facial paralysis usually on one side of the face. Symptoms appear quickly, over a 48- to 72-hour period. Recovery happens naturally within six months, but can sometimes take longer, or it may remain and cause permanent disfigurement.
Our plastic and cosmetic surgeon, Elliott H. Rose, MD, at the Aesthetic Surgery Center in New York City, offers support for patients who have permanent facial paralysis or drooping due to Bell’s palsy. While the cause of Bell’s palsy is unknown, Dr. Rose does believe certain factors may predispose you to its development.
Here’s who may be at greater risk of developing this confounding condition.
Why does Bell’s palsy develop?
Bell’s palsy is thought to develop in response to swelling and inflammation of the nerve that controls the muscles on one side of your face.
Activation of a dormant virus is the most likely reason people develop Bell’s palsy. There’s no real way to know you have this virus existing in your body. Factors like stress, sleep deprivation, minor illness, autoimmune syndromes, or physical trauma can hinder your immunity, however, and allow the virus to become active.
Pregnant women and people with diabetes are at greater risk, too. The flu, a cold, or other upper respiratory illness can also make you vulnerable to Bell’s palsy. Both men and women are equally at risk, especially when between the ages of 15 and 60.
Other conditions that cause facial paralysis include stroke, Lyme disease, myasthenia gravis, and brain tumor.
Bell’s palsy can be linked to:
- High blood pressure
- Exposure to toxins
- Guillain-Barré syndrome
- Multiple sclerosis
An infection with Herpes simplex virus that causes you to develop cold sores also puts you at risk of Bell’s palsy.
How do I know I have Bell’s palsy?
Bell’s palsy causes sudden weakness on one side of the face. Very rarely, you experience symptoms on both sides.
You’ll have trouble controlling the muscles that control facial expressions, including smiling, squinting, and closing your eyes.
Other signs of Bell’s palsy include:
- Loss of feeling in the face
- Inability to close your eye on the affected side of the face
- Hypersensitivity to sound on the affected side
- Loss of sense of taste on the first two-thirds of the tongue
These symptoms make sense because Bell’s palsy causes inflammation in the 7th cranial nerve, or the facial nerve, which is mainly involved with muscle control and facial sensations.
It’s best to seek medical care and get an official diagnosis, as Bell’s palsy symptoms can also be a sign of another serious condition.
How do you treat Bell’s palsy?
Bell’s palsy usually starts to resolve on its own; about 85% of cases start to resolve spontaneously in about three weeks. It can take three to six months to fully resolve. During your recovery, medications and eye care help you manage symptoms.
If you are among the small population who are left with mild, residual facial weakness or long-term paralysis, Dr. Rose can help. He provides fascia lata grafts – tendon grafts obtained from the thigh – to restore a more normal appearance to your face. These grafts support the corners of the lips and nostrils and create a sense of facial symmetry.
Dr. Rose also transfers muscles from the scalp or neck to reactivate facial expressions.
Learn more about Bell’s palsy and long-term treatments by calling The Aesthetic Surgery Center today. Alternatively, use this website to schedule an appointment. Dr. Rose welcomes patients from around the country and the world.