Have you started to lose feeling in your face? Are you struggling with facial expressions that you were able to do before easily? You could be experiencing facial paralysis.
What Is Facial Paralysis?
According to Healthline, “Facial paralysis is a loss of facial movement due to nerve damage. Your facial muscles may appear to droop or become weak.”
Facial paralysis can affect one side, both sides, or just one area of the face. It can occur fairly randomly and rapidly, or it can occur slowly over a longer period of time. The effects can be short-term or long-term, depending on the cause. It is usually a symptom of another health issue you may be experiencing.
Causes and Symptoms of Facial Paralysis
A variety of health factors can cause facial paralysis. It can be caused by inflammation or infections in the nerves, head trauma, Bell’s Palsy, strokes, tumors, and/or other health issues. Autoimmune diseases, as well as Lyme's disease, can cause inflammation or infections in the nerves. Ear infections and viral reactivations such as Ramsay-Hunt Syndrome can also cause facial paralysis.
Bell’s palsy is the most common cause of facial paralysis. Bell’s palsy affects about 40,000 Americans each year. Bell’s palsy makes your facial nerves inflamed, which can cause one side of the face’s muscles to droop slightly. The exact cause of this illness is unknown. However, it is believed that viruses may influence your chance of developing it. Most people will fully recover from Bell’s palsy within six months or so.
Some other symptoms of facial paralysis from Bell’s palsy include:
- Loss of blinking control
- Decreased tearing
- Slurred words
- Altered sense of taste
- Pain in the ear area
- Difficulty with eating/drinking
- Increased sensitivity to sound on the side that’s affected most
- Trouble closing their eyes
Strokes are another cause of facial paralysis that is potentially life-threatening. Strokes can damage the nerves that communicate with the facial muscles in the brain. This can result in facial paralysis. This occurs due to either a lack of oxygen or pressure caused by bleeding. Both can quickly kill brain cells.
The symptoms of a stroke can be shared with those of Bell’s palsy. However, with strokes, one is more likely to be able to blink and move their foreheads on the side that was affected.
Shingles, or herpes zoster, is an infection of a nerve and the skin around it. It's caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which also causes chickenpox
Some babies also may experience facial paralysis after birth, but the vast majority of them end up recovering from it.
Since the root cause of the facial paralysis can be difficult to determine on your own, you should always reach out to your doctor as soon as possible if you start to experience any symptoms of facial paralysis. Catching the signs helps ensure that you get the help you need as soon as possible, just in case it is something as serious as a stroke.
Treatment for Facial Paralysis
Since this type of paralysis often emerges as a symptom of an underlying health problem, treating it requires treatment of the root cause of the paralysis (if needed depending on the cause).
Bell’s palsy, for example, often does not require treatment and is likely to go away on its own. However, some emerging studies have shown that certain medications like prednisone and some type of antiviral medication help increase your chances of full recovery. Your treatment plan may also include a bit of physical therapy to help strengthen the muscles in your face.
For those with Bell’s palsy who struggle with closing their eyes, sometimes artificial tears may be considered to help ensure that the cornea doesn’t dry up, and to help protect their eyes.
For those who have facial paralysis caused by strokes, treating the stroke is the best way of helping prevent further paralysis/brain damage. Often, those who have had a stroke that has occurred recently will be able to undergo stroke therapy to try and destroy the clot that caused the stroke.
For those experiencing facial paralysis due to tumors or other growths on the brain, sometimes your doctor may recommend a surgical procedure to remove it to prevent further damage from occurring.
Verdict on Facial Paralysis
Facial paralysis can be a bit of a hassle to deal with. From the potential facial droops to the struggles with closing your eyes, facial paralysis can be annoying. Facial paralysis is usually a symptom of a separate underlying health problem.
To correctly combat the paralysis, you must treat the root cause first. This is why it’s important to visit your doctor when you start to experience any symptoms of paralysis. Not only will it help set you on the right path to combatting the paralysis, but it will also ensure there aren’t any other health issues at play that could harm you even more.