Although a stroke or tumor may cause facial paralysis, Bell's palsy accounts for 75 percent of facial paralysis cases, according to the National Institute of Health. Treatment options range from medication to physical therapy to alternative medicine.
The facial nerve runs from the brain to the face and sits in a bony canal. Inflammation from infection or injury causes the nerve to rub against the bony structure and results in facial paralysis. Your symptoms may include sudden weakness or paralysis on one side of the face that makes it difficult to smile or close your eyelid. You may also drool, lose your sense of taste, and experience ear pain, drooping eyelid, dizziness, facial twitching, dry mouth and an inability to blink.
Although the exact cause of Bell's palsy is unknown, the herpes simplex virus and varicella zoster virus have been implicated. Injury to the face or brain, tumors that compress nerves in the face, and neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Guillain-Barre Syndrome all increase your risk of facial paralysis. Bacterial infections such as tuberculosis, syphilis and ear infections also cause Bell's palsy.
Treatment for Bell's palsy should be started during the window of opportunity, seven to 10 days after the condition starts. Treatment is aimed at relieving compression, the cause of the condition.
Prednisone, a corticosteroid, reduces inflammation of the facial nerve. Antiviral medications are effective when a virus is causing the paralysis.
Physical therapy helps avoid the risk risk of permanent contractures in the face. Massaging facial muscle delivers blood back into the area, helps speed healing to the facial nerve and prevents facial disfigurement caused by paralysis.
The eye on the paralyzed side of your face may become dry because you can't blink. Eye drops, which you may need as often as once an hour, lubricate the eye. Wear an eye patch at night to protect the cornea. Extremely dry eyes can result in vision loss.
Other treatments for facial paralysis include acupuncture, facial exercises, relaxation therapy and botox injections. Most cases of Bell’s palsy eventually resolve within a few weeks to several months. The disorder is not life threatening, but may recur and cause permanent damage in a small number of cases.
Early detection and treatment reduce the risk of permanent damage.