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Oct 13, 2011

Healthy Living explores the causes of Bells Palsy

Many people confuse this condition with having a stroke. Bells Palsy is a facial paralysis that can be scary, but thankfully not as harmful as a stroke.  Its causes are not established but the experts say that it is not linked to the stroke.  Healthy Living this week explores this condition.

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

Imagine waking up one morning and finding half your face paralyzed. It’s likely you’d assume that you’ve had a stroke; and while that is a possibility, it could also be Bell’s Palsy, a form of facial paralysis that is temporary and can be caused by a virus. Neurologist, Dr John Sosa explains more about Bell’s Palsy.

Dr. John Sosa, Neurologist

“Bells Palsy basically is when a nerve that goes to face called the facial nerve gets inflamed for some reason and so the muscles don’t work well then the face gets sort of paralyzed and it doesn’t  work and that’s basically bells palsy. Usually they think they are having a stroke, some people may thing they are having an ear infection and they don’t really realize that they don’t close their eye well or lift their brows well or their mouth is a little to the side. They don’t notice because it’s very minor, but usually think it’s a stroke but you should see a doctor to be sure.”

Bell’s palsy is not the result of a stroke & there is no link between the two. The causes are not 100% clear. Commonly believed to be associated with stress, it’s actually more often due to underlying infections or trauma.

John Sosa

Dr. John Sosa

“Usually the most frequent cause of Bells’ palsy is, what we call idiopathic facial paralysis, is a virus herpes virus the ones that gives you cold sores and sometimes the one that gives you genital herpes but usually the type 1 herpes virus gives you bells palsy.  We have many other causes for Bells palsy you can have the virus or all viruses including the HIV virus you can trauma to the nerve or injury, it can an infection from another source a bacteria, it could be an inner ear or outer ear infection, it can be from a stranger or rarer thing called multiple sclerosis.”

The facial paralysis is the man symptom other symptoms are not as easy to notice.

Dr. John Sosa

“A lot of people have pain behind the ear, headache, pain the neck or shoulder, numbness on the face before it actually happens. It happens at night, could happen when you get frighten when they go to the mirror.”

The condition is known to affect both men and women; usually uncommon in children although they are not entirely immune to it. Diabetics are more than 4 times more likely to develop Bells palsy and also women in their third trimester of pregnancy. The good news is that the condition is not permanent and the recovery rate is high. It is treated with high doses of steroids; of course depending in the severity of the case.

Dr. John Sosa

“Around eighty to ninety percent of people get well pretty fast around three to maybe twelve weeks which is more or less a time period they get better. Some people they don’t really get better the way they want and a few maybe five percent have problems and have to get more intensive treatment down the road.”

Although, uncomfortable to the patients, they rarely develop long term damage.  Dr Sosa warns that one should never assume that they have bells palsy and should always have it diagnosed by a doctor.

Dr. John Sosa

“The first thing is that people usually think they’re having a stroke. And what they should do is go to a doctor who can examine then because with bells palsy you cannot assume stuff so you should be seen by a doctor who can determine if it’s just a nerve problem or if it’s a problem coming from the brain.”

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