Bell’s Palsy is a form of facial paralysis resulting from dysfunction cranial nerve VII. This results in the inability to control facial muscles on the affected side. Several conditions are thought to cause facial paralysis including brain tumors, stroke, and Lyme Disease. However, if no specific cause can be identified, the condition is known as Bell’s Palsy. There is no cure or standard course of treatment for Bell’s Palsy. The most important factor in treatment is to eliminate the source of the nerve damage.
Bell’s Palsy affects each individual differently. Some cases are mild and do not require treatment as the symptoms usually go away on their own within 2 weeks. For others, treatment may include medications and other therapeutic options.
Another important factor in treatment is eye protection. Bell’s Palsy can interrupt the eyelid’s natural blinking ability, leaving the eye exposed to irritation and drying. Therefore, keeping the eye moist and protecting the eye from debris and injury, especially at night, is important. Lubricating eye drops, such as artificial tears, or eye ointments or gels, and eye patches are also effective.
Physical therapy to stimulate the facial nerve and help maintain muscle tone may be beneficial to some. Facial massage and exercises may help prevent permanent contractures (shrinkage or shortening of muscles) of the paralyzed muscles before recovery takes place. Moist heat applied to the affected side of the face may help reduce pain.
What is the Prognosis?
The prognosis for individuals with Bell’s Palsy is generally very good. The extent of nerve damage determines the extent of recovery. Improvement is gradual and recovery times vary. With or without treatment, most individuals begin to get better within 2 weeks after the initial onset of symptoms and most recover completely, returning to normal function within 3 to 6 months. For some, however, the symptoms may last longer. In a few cases, the symptoms may never completely disappear. In rare cases, the disorder may recur, either on the same or the opposite eye.
Dr. Chang at Eye Physicians of Long Beach can help those suffering from Bell’s Palsy regain the ability to close the affected eye. Different treatments and therapies are available. If you are suffering from Bell’s Palsy and are experiencing trouble with the affected eye, we encourage you to contact our office to schedule a consultation.