Facial Palsy - Symptoms, Risk factors and Treatment

Facial palsy is a condition in which the muscles of your face become weak. It can be temporary or permanent due to the damage to the facial nerve that causes the weakness or paralysis of muscles of either side of your face. It may present as, that you sleep fine, and when you wake up, your facial muscles may not move. People often misconstrue it with stroke because the muscle weakness resembles it. 


The person having facial palsy may also have no control over tears, saliva production, and sense of taste. In rare cases, it affects both sides of the face. Mostly the symptoms of bell palsy resolve within six months. Frequent physiotherapy can also help with it. Rarely they remain for a lifetime. Your healthcare provider may also prescribe some anti-inflammatory medications for it. 



Working of facial nerves 


Each side of your face has its own set of facial nerves. They innervate from the brain and enter the face to the front side of the ear. From then, it divides into further five branches. The facial nerves control tear production, saliva production, smile, and facial expressions. Since each side of the face has its own set of facial nerves, the damage to the nerve of one side may not affect the other side. It means if damage has occurred to the left side facial nerves, then the muscles of the left side of the face will droop and vice versa. However, it depends upon the type of facial palsy. It may affect the whole face sometimes. 

 

The facial nerves go through the gap of bone from the brain to the face and parts of the ear. According to experts, facial palsy occurs when anyone of the facial nerve is inflamed. Due to this, it exerts pressure on the cheekbone or may pinch in the narrow gap. It can eventually damage the protective covering of the nerve. However, the exact reason is still unclear. It is hard to predict a single cause and mechanism for facial palsy. 




Symptoms 


The signs and symptoms of facial palsy come suddenly. They can be described as;


  • Rapid onset of weakness of one side of the face that leads to total paralysis- occurring in hours to days.

  • Facial droop 

  • Difficulty in making facial expressions

  • Difficulty smiling or closing your eye

  • Pain around the jaw or behind your ear

  • Drooling 

  • Headache 

  • Loss of taste

  • Increased sensitivity of sound to the affected area

  • Change in the amount of saliva production 

  • Changes in the amount of tears production 


Causes 


The most common cause for facial palsy is Bells’ palsy. However, there can be other causes too. Some of them are as follows. 


  • Viral infections like Bell’s palsy and Ramsay Hunt syndrome

  • Surgery- removal of acoustic neuroma, facial nerve tumor, or operation of the parotid gland

  • Bacterial infections like Lyme disease or middle ear infection 

  • Neurological conditions like Guillain-Barre syndrome 

  • Accidents that lead to traumatic injuries like fracture of the brain, face, or skull 

  • Complications in pregnancy that cause birth trauma to the child because of usage of forceps or facial presentation delivery

  • Congenital conditions ( ones that are present at birth) that cause abnormal development of the facial nerve or muscles of the baby

  • Genetic conditions like Moebius syndrome or CHARGE syndrome



Conclusion 


Facial palsy is a condition in which the muscles of your face become weak. It can be temporary or permanent due to the damage to the facial nerve that causes the weakness or paralysis of muscles of either side of your face. It may occur due to various reasons. However, the condition may resolve with frequent physiotherapy and anti-inflammatory medications. 


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