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Bell’s Palsy: What To Look For And When To See A Neurologist

If you have experienced the inability to move facial muscles on one side of your face, or noticed a distorted smile, or drooping eye muscles, then you have just had a tiny hint of what it is like to experience Bell’s Palsy. Every year Bell’s Palsy affects about 40,000 people in the U.S. alone, and can affect anyone of any gender and age.

Even with many studies currently being done to learn more, much is still unknown about the cause of Bell’s Palsy. Therefore, it is important to see an experienced neurologist in Leesburg, VA if you are experiencing any of the symptoms described below.

What is Bell’s Palsy?

Bell’s Palsy, which is also known as Idiopathic Facial Palsy, is a form of temporary facial paralysis or weakness on one side of the face. There are 12 pairs of cranial nerves, and Bell’s Palsy is a result of a dysfunction—such as damage or compression—in cranial nerve 7 (CN7) which directs the muscles on one side of the face. This includes the muscles that control blinking or closing your eye, as well as facial expressions like smiling.

Bell’s Palsy is the most common cause of facial paralysis, although the exact cause is still unknown. Typically, Bell’s Palsy only affects one side of the face; however, in rare cases, it can affect both sides.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms tend to appear suddenly over a 48 to 72-hour period and may include:

  • Rapid onset of mild weakness to total paralysis on one side of your face—occurring within hours to several days.
  • Facial droop and difficulty making facial expressions—such as closing your eye or smiling.
  • Drooling
  • Pain around the jaw or in/behind your ear on the affected side
  • Increased sensitivity to sound on the affected side
  • Headache
  • Loss of taste
  • Changes in the amount of tears and saliva.

Who is at risk?

While Bell’s Palsy can affect anyone, it most commonly affects men and women between 15 to 60 years old. Researchers have also found there are certain conditions that can contribute to the disorder such as:

  • Diabetes
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Lyme Disease
  • Herpes Simplex Virus
  • Epstein-Barr
  • Influenza B
  • Chickenpox and Shingles

If left untreated, these illnesses can contribute to Bell’s Palsy by causing inflammation and swelling of the nerve that controls your facial muscles. Besides facial muscles, the nerve can also affect tears, saliva, taste, and a small bone in the middle of your ear.

According to the Mayo Clinic recurrent attacks of Bell’s Palsy are rare. However, in some cases research has shown there is a family history of recurrent attacks—suggesting a possible genetic predisposition to Bell’s Palsy.

How is Bell’s Palsy diagnosed and treated?

Diagnosis for Bell’s Palsy is primarily based on clinical observation. Since symptoms can suddenly start to appear it is important to seek care from Leesburg neurologist Dr. Sarbjot Dulai within 72 hours of symptom onset, if possible. One of the first signs to look for is the distorted facial appearance and inability to move the facial muscles on one side.

Diagnosis is usually determined by a neurologist who will examine the patients facial movements and look for any inconsistencies that may be caused by Bell’s Palsy. If necessary, for more severe cases, an MRI test can be performed to determine what pressure if any there are to the facial nerves.

For the treatment of Bell’s Palsy, steroids are often used as they are highly likely to be effective and can increase the probability of recovery of facial nerve function.

Other therapies such as physical therapy, facial massage, or acupuncture may provide potential small improvement in the facial nerves function and pain. However, without treatment, symptoms of Bell’s Palsy usually subside within a few weeks after diagnosis. Even though Bell’s Palsy is a condition to take seriously, the outlook for affected people can be very positive.

Make an appointment with Dulles Neurologist, Dr. Sarbjot Dulai

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, don’t wait until they worsen. It is important to make an appointment to rule out other concerns and receive a correct diagnosis. Call Neurology Associates at (703) 726-6393 to schedule a consultation.