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What You Should Know About Bell's Palsy and Facial Paralysis

About 40,000 people in the United States are affected by Bell’s palsy every year. The condition confounds researchers, who aren’t entirely sure why people develop this temporary facial paralysis or weakness on one side of their face.

Bell’s palsy is the most common cause of facial paralysis, and it usually starts to subside within a few weeks, typically going away completely within six months.

At The Aesthetic Surgery Center, board-certified plastic surgeon Elliott Rose, MD, helps in those less common cases where Bell’s palsy results in residual muscle weakness or permanent paralysis.

Here’s what he wants you to know about the condition.

Symptoms of Bell’s palsy

Bell's palsy usually comes on suddenly and progresses over the next 48-72 hours. You may look in the mirror and notice one side of your face isn’t moving as it should. Bell’s palsy is most common in people aged 15-45, though it can affect anyone at any age.

The most common symptom associated with Bell’s palsy is sudden weakness on one side of the face. 

You may also experience:

These symptoms notably distort your appearance.

Likely causes of Bell’s palsy

Though it’s not entirely understood why people develop Bell’s palsy, the condition is likely due to a viral infection that causes swelling and inflammation of the facial nerve that coordinates movement in the paralyzed muscles.

Certain conditions do put you at a greater risk of developing Bell’s palsy, including pregnancy, obesity, preeclampsia, high blood pressure, diabetes, and upper respiratory issues as simple as a cold or the flu. Lyme disease and head trauma also seem to put you at risk.

Treatment for Bell’s palsy

When Bell’s palsy is first diagnosed, your general practitioner or specialist may recommend steroids to help alleviate symptoms and increase the probability of functional recovery of your facial muscles. Antiviral drugs are also often recommended, in conjunction with or independent of the steroids.

Facial massage and even acupuncture are sometimes used to help you restore facial function.

People usually fully recover from Bell’s palsy. In 85% of cases, people experience significant clinical improvement within three weeks.

Lingering effects of Bell’s palsy

Though most people recover from the facial paralysis caused by Bell’s palsy, there are some who do not. Some may be left with mild lingering facial weakness or have moderate or severe facial distortion. It’s in these situations that Dr. Rose’s surgical expertise is invaluable.

He uses the latest surgical procedures to restore balance in affected facial features, protect your eyes from corneal dryness, and create facial symmetry. The technique involves using grafts of tendons from the thigh to provide structure to support the corners of the lips and nostrils.

He may also transfer muscles from nearby at the scalp or neck to reactivate your facial expressions and return your smile to a more natural look.

People from around the world seek out Dr. Rose for his expertise and skill in Bell’s palsy plastic surgery that provides facial reanimation following facial paralysis. If you would like to schedule a consultation, call our office on New York City’s Upper East Side, or use this website to schedule.

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