Bell’s Palsy is a type of facial paralysis—a rare condition, but still the most common of its type. Experts suspect that a certain facial nerve responds to viruses by becoming swollen or inflamed, which results in drooping of one side of the face. This gives patients difficulty in making facial expressions and can change in tear production, saliva production, taste, and other issues. Although Bell’s palsy can crop up over just a few hours or days, it can take up to six months for everything to return to normal. In very rare cases, symptoms may be chronic or recurring.
Steroids and Antivirals
About 75% of those suffering from Bell’s palsy return to normal without treatment. The worst of the disorder is over within two weeks, and even without treatment a few months can lead to healing. So, much of the treatment performed is symptomatic. Corticosteroids may be useful to reduce the inflammation and ease pressure on the facial nerve. If the virus is still present when symptoms begin, antiviral medications can help make the duration of Bell’s palsy shorter. Not everyone benefits from these treatments, but it can ease symptoms for some.
One of the most important aspects of treatment during Bell’s palsy is to keep the eye safe over the course of the disorder. The change in tear production can disrupt the affected eye, and the effect on the muscles can get in the way of normal blinking. Additionally, if it fails to shut completely at night, there can be serious repercussions to the eyeball. Certain lubrications or an eye patch may keep the cornea protected from scratches.
Physical therapists can be quite useful when it comes to Bell's palsy. The facial muscles can shrink through lack of use. Certain massage and exercise techniques can be taught to patients to prevent this from happening. Although decompression surgery was once recommended for Bell’s palsy, it is very rarely used today, as it can cause serious damage. However, it is sometimes desirable to receive plastic surgery to reverse cosmetic damage from the effects on the muscle.