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Bell’s palsy: Facial nerve crisis

Posted in Facial nerve disorder, Nerv Disorder on Jun 11, 2020

Bell’s palsy: Facial nerve crisis

What is Bell’s palsy? 

Bell’s palsy, also called Acute Peripheral Facial Palsy and Idiopathic Facial Palsy is a very rare neurological disorder. Scottish anatomist Charles Bell was the first person to identify this condition hence named Bell’s palsy. This condition is associated with severe weakness on one side of the face.

The Central Nervous System in the human body gives off 12 pairs of cranial nerves. The cranial nerve VII named Facial nerve undergoes inflammation, swelling, or compression due to which its function compromises.

A person who experiences Bell’s palsy often suspects having a stroke which is false prediction. In this condition, a person fails to control the muscles of the face. Muscles of the affected side droop, ability to smile minimizes, and eyes don’t close properly. 

Moreover, this condition usually lasts for 48-72 hours. After an episode of severe weakness, the symptoms tend to subside and the muscles begin to function normally. However, very rarely the symptoms stay for longer time periods.

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The maximum duration is 9 months and in extremely rare cases it lasts for a lifetime. 1 in 5000 people develop this rare condition every year. When it occurs it affects only one side of the face but in very rare cases it affects both sides.  [1]

 

What are the causes?  

The exact cause of Bell’s palsy is unknown. However, doctors have shortlisted some conditions and factors which favor the development of Bell’s palsy.  To understand the causes thoroughly it is necessary to understand the basic knowledge about facial nerve.

This nerve reaches the inside of the face by passing through the fallopian canal. When any of the later mentioned cause occurs the facial nerve swells up which restricts the flow of blood and oxygen to the nerve cells.

Since the facial nerve is traveling through the fallopian canal therefore any trauma such as accidents or repeated violence causes damage to the cervical vertebrae and the fallopian tube. Due to the damage, the facial nerve is pinched causing symptoms of Bell’s palsy. 

 

What are the symptoms? 

As mentioned earlier, the symptoms of Bell’s palsy are temporary. In extremely rare cases the symptoms remain for a long duration of time. Otherwise, they subside within a few days. The symptoms of Bell’s palsy mainly include partial or complete weakness or paralysis of one side of the face.

Loss of control over facial expressions, inability to smile, and resistance to closing eyes are common clinical presentations of Bell’s palsy. Since facial nerve also supplies the lacrimal and salivary glands, therefore, both glands fail to function properly.

Drooling and unnecessary tear production is commonly observed. The ears on the affected side become insensitive to sound (hyperacusis) and there is a constant headache. The patient does not identify taste properly as there is a loss of sense of taste. The affected side has persistent pain especially around the jaw and behind the ear. [2] 

 

Are there any complications? 

The condition caused by Bell’s palsy can give rise to some conditions which need to be taken care of quite properly. Otherwise, they not only cause discomfort but also give rise to some other associated problems.

As we know in Bell’s palsy the eye on the affected side does not close properly. This can cause the drying of the eye which is quite irritating. The moisture in the eye dries up and exposes the cornea to burning and painful sensations.

It is necessary for the patient to use eye drops or any bedtime ointment to protect the moisture of the eye. [3] Moreover, if the symptoms of Bell’s palsy don’t go within a few hours or days then it can give rise to some serious complications.

These complications include permanent damage to Facial nerve and synkinesis in which the nerve fibers regrow and function for multiple muscles at the same time. Most importantly, the patient may have to suffer from blindness if proper care is not provided to the eye on the affected side. [2] Complications of Bell’s palsy are not common.

In the first place, the symptoms subside on their own after a few days and even if they don’t the complications require a lot of carelessness to occur. 

 

How is Bell’s palsy diagnosed? 

The diagnostic criterion for Bell’s palsy is still unknown. There is no laboratory test to confirm the diagnosis. However, a doctor conducts a physical examination of the patient. They ask the patient to lift eyebrows, smile, show teeth, frown, and close the eyes.

Physical examination clearly indicates the occurrence of Bell’s palsy. If the diagnosis is not confirmed, imaging scans are conducted to understand the cause. Electromyography (EMG) shows the response of muscles towards electrical nerve impulses from the nerve.

This scan reveals the extent and location of nerve damage. MRI and CT scans are conducted to rule out the possibility of tumor or fracture which might be pinching the facial nerve. [4]

Physical examination alone is sufficient to diagnose Bell’s palsy. To confirm or understand the extent of damage to rule out possible complications and severity MRI and CT scans are conducted. 

 

Upper Cervical Chiropractic care does wonders! 

Although there is a wide variety of treatment options for Bell’s palsy none of them guarantees complete healing of this chronic condition. Amidst the confusion for doctors and researchers chiropractic are confident about their practices.

They believe in curing Bell’s palsy with gentle practices that have no side-effects. With the help of X-rays, they view all four angles i.e. side, top, front, and three-dimensional to grasp a clear picture of the cervical spine.

The treatment is plotted around the Atlas which is the first spinal vertebra. With the help of some basic adjustments by twisting the C1 (Atlas), the condition is improved. All the adjustments are done to ease the pressure from the nerve. After each session, X-rays are taken to judge the condition.

As soon as the misalignment is corrected the symptoms begin to heal. The duration for correctly aligning the cervical vertebrae varies from person to person and condition to condition. Most of the patients report healing after one session only.

References

  1. Bell's Palsy Fact Sheet
  2. Bell's palsy
  3. What is Bell's palsy?
  4. What are the causes of Bell's palsy?