Bell’s Palsy is the most common cause of facial paralysis. It usually occurs on only one side of the face, is likely caused by a virus and can last two weeks or longer. People over 40 years of age are most likely to be stricken with disorders of the facial nerve.

Bell’s Palsy

Disorders of the facial nerve can occur to men, women, and children, but they are more prominent among men and women over 40 years of age, people with diabetes, upper respiratory ailments, weak immune systems, or pregnant women. Cases of facial paralysis can be permanent or temporary, but in all circumstances there are treatments designed to improved facial function.

Infections, injuries, or  tumors can cause facial nerve disorders, but the most common cause of facial weakness is Bell’s palsy. This disorder, which often comes on suddenly and reaches its peak within 48 hours, is probably due to the body’s response to a virus. When there is a virus, the facial nerve within the ear (temporal bone) swells, and the pressure on the nerve in the bony canal damages it.

The paralysis is likely to affect only one side of the face, but in rare cases it affects both sides of the face at once. Bell’s palsy may last from two to three weeks or longer. An early sign of improvement, such as getting a sense of taste back, is often a good indication that there will be a complete recovery.

The goal of the treatment is to eliminate the source of the nerve damage. Patients with less nerve damage have better chances of recovery. Medications are often used as part of the treatment:

  • If infection is the cause, then an antibiotic to fight bacteria (as in middle ear infections) or antiviral agents (to fight syndromes caused by viruses like Ramsay Hunt) may be used.
  • If swelling is believed to be responsible for the facial nerve disorder, then steroids are often prescribed.
 
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