Carnie Wilson tweeted that she's dealing with Bell's Palsy. I was not going to post about this on the blog - EXCEPT that someone I know very very well -- has a very similar condition that comes and goes and comes and goes and goes and comes back. I have always called it 'twitches.'
It hasn't been diagnosed -- but this might just be enough to get that person to See The Neurologist Like I Have Been Asking For About 15 years.
What is Bell's Palsy?
- Bell's palsy is a form of temporary facial paralysis resulting from damage or trauma to the facial nerves. The facial nerve-also called the 7th cranial nerve-travels through a narrow, bony canal (called the Fallopian canal) in the skull, beneath the ear, to the muscles on each side of the face. For most of its journey, the nerve is encased in this bony shell. Each facial nerve directs the muscles on one side of the face, including those that control eye blinking and closing, and facial expressions such as smiling and frowning. Additionally, the facial nerve carries nerve impulses to the lacrimal or tear glands, the saliva glands, and the muscles of a small bone in the middle of the ear called the stapes. The facial nerve also transmits taste sensations from the tongue. When Bell's palsy occurs, the function of the facial nerve is disrupted, causing an interruption in the messages the brain sends to the facial muscles. This interruption results in facial weakness or paralysis.
- Bell's palsy is named for Sir Charles Bell, a 19th century Scottish surgeon who was the first to describe the condition. The disorder, which is not related to stroke, is the most common cause of facial paralysis. Generally, Bell's palsy affects only one of the paired facial nerves and one side of the face, however, in rare cases, it can affect both sides.
- What are the Symptoms? Because the facial nerve has so many functions and is so complex, damage to the nerve or a disruption in its function can lead to many problems.
- Symptoms of Bell's palsy can vary from person to person and range in severity from mild weakness to total paralysis. These symptoms may include twitching, weakness, or paralysis on one or rarely both sides of the face. Other symptoms may include drooping of the eyelid and corner of the mouth, drooling, dryness of the eye or mouth, impairment of taste, and excessive tearing in one eye. Most often these symptoms, which usually begin suddenly and reach their peak within 48 hours, lead to significant facial distortion. Other symptoms may include pain or discomfort around the jaw and behind the ear, ringing in one or both ears, headache, loss of taste, hypersensitivity to sound on the affected side, impaired speech, dizziness, and difficulty eating or drinking.
- What Causes Bell's Palsy? Bell's palsy occurs when the nerve that controls the facial muscles is swollen, inflamed, or compressed, resulting in facial weakness or paralysis. Exactly what causes this damage, however, is unknown. Most scientists believe that a viral infection such as viral meningitis or the common cold sore virus—herpes simplex—causes the disorder. They believe that the facial nerve swells and becomes inflamed in reaction to the infection, causing pressure within the Fallopian canal and leading to ischemia (the restriction of blood and oxygen to the nerve cells).
- In some mild cases (where recovery is rapid), there is damage only to the myelin sheath of the nerve. The myelin sheath is the fatty covering-which acts as an insulator-on nerve fibers in the brain. The disorder has also been associated with influenza or a flu-like illness, headaches, chronic middle ear infection, high blood pressure, diabetes, sarcoidosis, tumors, Lyme disease, and trauma such as skull fracture or facial injury.
- Who Gets it? Bell's palsy afflicts approximately 40,000 Americans each year. It affects men and women equally and can occur at any age, but it is less common before age 15 or after age 60. It disproportionately attacks people who have diabetes or upper respiratory ailments such as the flu or a cold.