- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
Bell's Palsy, What is it and How Is It Contracted?
Most of my nursing has been in med-surg; so this diagnosis is not one I have been familiar with, mainly because of my home health background. Bell's Palsy is rarely seen in hospitals, it usually resolves on its own in a month or so. However, there are always exceptions and there have been person's who have lived with Bell's Palsy for many years. As a home health nurse, the only way I knew a patient had the disorder was while gathering the patient’s health history. The patient would say, “They say I had Bell’s Palsy when I was young but I don’t remember much of that” or they would remember being sick and their face being numb on one side but it was not a pertinent aspect of their past health history.
There are three things to remember about Bell's Palsy.
1. The first is it only affects the seventh nerve. This is the nerve that controls facial movements.
2. The second is it only affects one side of the face.
3. The third is it generally resolves itself in a few weeks.
CN 0 - Cranial nerve zero
CN I - Olfactory
CN II - Optic
CN III - Oculomotor
CN IV - Trochlear
CN V - Trigeminal
CN VI - Abducens
CN VII - Facial
CN VIII - Vestibulocochlear
CN IX - Glossopharyngeal
CN X - Vagus
CN XI - Accessory
CN XII - Hypoglossal
The above is taken from Wikipedia and it outlines all the cranial nerves for you. The seventh as shown controls the face.
As noted earlier there is an "however" and it holds true here as well. Although it is only the seventh nerve that is the source, some people experience other symptoms such as difficulty walking, problems with balance and memory, headache and tingling of the face from Wikipedia. Although there are many cranial nerves that work on parts of the head and neck, the seventh cranial nerve, the one specifically linked to the face itself, is the one that is targeted by Bell’s Palsy.
Although there is not a known cause, therefore no known cure, of this ailment, it is generally seen following some form of viral infection. Man, do we know about those! Remember Shingles? Remember Guillain-Barre?
So it is no surprise that the virus thought to be linked to Bell’s Palsy is herpes. Both Forms; Herpes simplex (cold sores, fever blisters), Herpes Zoster (Shingles) as well as Lyme’s Disease which is caused from ticks.
As I was reading and researching on Bell’s Palsy hubby was watching ‘The History Channel’ (his favorite channel J ) and there was a documentary on about Abraham Lincoln. It was researching the possibility that Lincoln suffered from a condition that caused a malformation of his face, the more he grew the more misshapen his face became. His eyes did not line up; one side of his mouth was lower than the other. Even his ears were not straight. His face looked like patients face with Bell’s Palsy, even more so. I know it was not; but then he grew up in the woods and Lyme’s Disease would not have been uncommon would it? It made me think is all, wonder if…
Your physician can usually diagnose Bell’s Palsy correctly without any other testing at all although if the symptoms are not well defined and MRI Electromyography or a nerve conduction test may also be used. The diagnosis for Bell’s Palsy is just as it is for other disease processes; it is a rule it out procedure. Start with the obvious and start ruling out what it is NOT.
The symptoms are sudden. Dizziness is not uncommon. The most visible sign of a problem will be drooling, facial drooping to one side only, the unaffected eye inability to close, a twisting or drooping of the mouth to one side.
Once that is done, your physician will usually start you on a steroid such as Prednisone to get rid of the inflammation and then an antiviral medication such as acyclovir. As noted earlier, most patients with this disease recover on their own within one to two months.
There are certain characteristics other than the theory of it being caused from viral infection or a specific virus itself.
· It is less likely to occur before the age of fifteen or after the age of 64.
· There has been an association of diagnosis of atypical bell palsy and Ramsay hunt Syndrome as well as a link between Bells Palsy and Lyme’s Disease, although with both conditions there are other signs and symptoms than just paralysis on one side of the face.
Unfortunately, the bottom line is there is a lot that is NOT known about Bells Palsy. The only GOOD thing is MOST of the time you are over it before This Nurse has Completed the Research on the Condition J
What is written here does not now nor does it ever take the place of your physician’s advice and services of your physician.
Consult your physician every time for all things medically related and of course, if you feel you have any of the signs or symptoms of what has been written in this hub, please contact your physician for a consultation as soon as possible.