Bell's Palsy, named for Sir Charles Bell whom first described this disease in the 1882 in Edinburgh, Scotland, is a partial paralysis of the face which occurs suddenly often accompanied by pain or discomfort; it's an often frustrating disease which afflicts approximately 40, 000 Americans each year.
Bell's Palsy is preceded by a respiratory infection in 75% of cases, however much is yet unknown about this rare and mysterious disease. Bell's Palsy symptoms are similar to those of a stoke or tumor, and careful attention to rule out such possibilities before a definitive diagnosis of Bell's Palsy is made is essential.
Many believe stress is a primary factor in the development of Bell's Palsy; other causes may include diabetes, high blood pressure, trauma, toxins, and infections. There exists some thought to the possibility of Bell's Palsy being an inherited disease, although the connection remains unclear.
The cause of Bell palsy is unknown. It is known that inflammation of the facial nerve (seventh cranial nerve) occurs. Some evidence suggests that herpes simplex virus is the causative agent. Treatments can therefore include steroids or antiviral agents.
Because facial paralysis can leave the eye on the affected side vulnerable, nurses should help to ensure that eye protection measures are instituted. This can include using artificial tears or lubricants and/or sunglasses and/or eye shields.
When Bellís Palsy strikes it comes in undetectable steps. For me it was that I thought I had an allergy. My eyes watered and itched for approximately a week and like most people I visited the local drug store to buy an over the counter antihistamine. That didnít work very well and a couple of days later I noticed that the right side of my face was drooping and it was becoming very hard to chew food on that side of my face. Finally on a Sunday evening after I had told everyone it was nothing and I would see my doctor on Monday, I gave in to all the prodding to go to the emergency room for treatment. With the pain below and behind my right ear even I wondered if I was having a stroke. After sitting in the waiting area of the hospital and being processed, I was wheeled into an examining room to await the doctor on call. Finally when the doctor did come in he asked me to try to raise my eyebrow on the right side of my face. I couldnít do that. I couldnít even scrunch my drooping face. It just wouldnít work. The doctor then spoke and said that he thought it was Bellís Palsy and it wasnít serious. Although he ordered a cat scan just to be sure. I was then given medication and a prescription for Predisone (steroid) and told to see my regular physician. The nurse told me to put a bandage over my right eye at night and use artificial tears to keep my eye from drying out since I could not close it all the way. Later, I bought an eye patch and the artificial tears. That helped immensely as when driving in the car with the window open the wind tended to dry my eye out and make me blink profusely.
Bellís Palsy is a well-known virus that is air borne and strikes mostly women. It can last anywhere from 3 weeks to 3 months with no residual damage. It goes as it came, silently. Bit by bit facial function returns and as in my case it only lasted three weeks to my great relief.
For more information click on the link below to go to the Mayo Clinic Website.