Straight, No Chaser: Bell’s Palsy

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We’ve spent a few days focusing on stroke recognition, but today we focus on a condition that often gets confused with a stroke. Bell’s palsy is a paralysis of the facial nerve, caused by inflammation or other irritation to the nerve.  This paralysis causes muscle weakness in one side of the face.

Patients often find themselves unable to close one of the eyelids or wrinkle one side of the forehead/face.  The eyes may become dry due to inability to blink.  One side of the mouth may drool and droop.  The sense of taste may change.  Sounds may become louder, and headache may develop.

Bell’s palsy is treated with steroids and artificial tears.

The prognosis for individuals with Bell’s palsy is generally very good.  The extent of nerve damage determines the extent of recovery.  Improvement is gradual and recovery times vary.  With or without treatment, most individuals begin to get better within 2 weeks after the initial onset of symptoms and most recover completely, returning to normal inside of 3-6 months.  For some, the symptoms may last longer, and in a few cases, the symptoms may never completely disappear.

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By the way, in case you’re wondering about the picture, the right side of the picture (the left side of the patient’s face) is the side affected.  He can neither wrinkle his forehead nor close his eye, both of which are functions of the cranial nerve.  And no, this is not a stroke.

 

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