Breaking down Bell’s Palsy: 6 years later, our Mary King takes a closer look at her diagnosis
“When your blood volume goes up, it goes up everywhere, so pretty much everything gets swollen when you’re pregnant, including nerves around your face,” said Dr. Douglas Addy, an OBGYN with Lexington Medical Center.
In addition to pregnancy and diabetes, other possible triggers for the condition are a viral infection like the cold sore virus, the flu or flu-like illnesses, headaches, high blood pressure, Lyme disease and other traumas according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
The institute also provides a list of symptoms that can vary person to person and range from mild weakness to total paralysis. It may also include drooping of the eyelid and corner of the mouth, drooling, impairment of taste, excessive tearing in one eye, ringing in one of both ears, pain or discomfort behind the ear and around the jaw, loss of taste, impaired speech, dizziness and difficulty eating or drinking.
While there’s no way to know if you’ll get Bell’s Palsy or any way to prevent it, doctors say if it does happen, the best thing to have is hope.
“You try just not to worry about it, but that’s obviously difficult to do,” Dr. Addy said.
“It is a time-limited process, and it will more than likely improve with time, but certainly remember if you’re not seeing any improvement whatsoever between the first 4 to 6 months to see a neurologist just so we can determine if there something else going on,” Dr. Dahlburg said.
Ultimately, doctors say they tell patients to give themselves about 3 months for recovery.
But doctors say to keep in mind when a nerve is damaged it may never fully recover. In King’s case, when she’s tired or stressed, she says she can tell it takes more effort to utilize the muscles on the right side of her face and doctors say that’s normal.
Some people who have been diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy ask about the effectiveness of alternative therapies.
“Acupuncture is a possibility,” Dr. Dahlburg said. “I always say with the alternative therapies like that, there’s no harm and worst case scenario it doesn’t make a difference and best case scenarios is you get some improvement.”
Dr. Dahlburg said for those who never see recovery, there are some more options as well. “There are some new therapies emerging where we can use things like Botox to achieve more symmetric facial expression and also for people who are having difficulty closing their eyes, physicians can insert a little bit of weight in the eye lid so someone can have more function there.”
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