Tell Me About Bell's Palsy

After a frightening few hours in which a stroke was feared, my cousin was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy. It presented as a blinding headache and weakness in the right side of her face and neck.

Can someone tell me more about this ailment and what might be in store for her?

My sister had it. Basically the same symptoms.

It basically has to wear itself out. Your cousin might have some trouble with her facial and neck muscles for several months. Some people have recovered but had a permanent “droop” on one side.

It’s not permanently disabling, as far as I (or my sister) know, and the fact that you’ve had it once doesn’t make you any more susceptible to getting it again.

Here’s a pretty good site containing Bell’s Palsy information.

I have had Bell’s Palsy. But it was a long time ago – about 25 years. It was scary though. I was convinced I had had a minor stroke.

At diagnosis, the doctor told me there was a chance there would be permanent residual effects. IIRC he told me there would be an 80 percent chance of full recovery. Not very comforting at the time. (I see that the link I gave doesn’t seem to put a percentage on full recovery, so maybe the treatments have improved.)

I did fully recover, with no residual effects. It took about 12-14 weeks. I had absolutely no facial muscle movement at all for about the first 11 weeks; then a little bit of improvement; and then almost suddenly was normal.

It was a pain in the patoot. I had problems with my eye drying out due to not being able to blink. And of course I drooled a lot. I attempted eating soup once – big mistake. Just being in public was a little strange. It made me much more empathetic to people with disabilities.

It depends. My dad was stricken with it a couple of years ago. Its basically a mini-stroke which commonly affects one half of the face, but can affect both sides. With dad, he lost all control of his facial muscles for a couple of months – had trouble closing his eyes (he had to tape them down at night), trouble chewing, talking, etc. etc. However, he did get better – with lots of physiotherapy, which included applying small electrical impulses to the muscles of his face, as well as excercises to strengthen his jaw muscles – he was advised to chew gum a lot. Accupuncture was also useful.

Nowadays (its been about 3 years now), dad is pretty much back to normal; there’s still a slight droop to his face, and he sometimes has difficulty talking, but its not really noticeable at all. The physiotherapy was probably the biggest help in getting dad back to normal. So, if it is offered as a treatment plan, then its a good idea to take advantage of it.

There might also be a couple of well, embarrasment, issues. For instance, since dad didn’t have as much control over his facial muscles as previously, for a while he found eating very difficult, and indeed, during that time, he refused to go out for dinner, since he was too embarrased. Just little things to bear in mind.

Just a minor nitpick – it’s not a stroke at all.

I had a boss that woke up with it one morning. The symptoms were as described. He recovered fully in about 6 months.

One of the treatments for Bell’s Palsy is to inject sterile glycerol into the affected area of the face. I know this only because the compounding pharmacist I work with has to make this preparation.

I do understand that Bell’s clears up after a relatively brief period of time. Not like a stroke at all.

Here’s my episode with Bell’s Palsy:

I got it from jumping into extremely cold water in December, many years ago. A nerve on one side of my face was affected by the cold, and I got afflicted by what was diagnosed as Bell’s Palsy.

Symptoms took a few days to turn up. Funny feeling while smiling, couldn’t blink one eye, one side of the face couldn’t emote, slight pain in neck/upper back. When I called up my family doc and told her of my symptoms, she told me over the phone that I’ve probably got Bell’s Palsy and need to rush to the hospital right away. There the diagnosis was confirmed.

Here’s what I was told: Recovery is very much possible, but not guaranteed. If diagnosed early, chances of recovery are higher. Relapse is common. I had an 80% or so chance of recovery with no permanent effects.

Treatment included steroid injections, lots of facial massages/electrical (?) therapy, and continuous facial exercises.

It looked and felt very scary, in that one side of the face could not move at all. A week after diagnosis my situation started improving.

I have very minimal residual effects, unnoticeable to the casual observer. Like if I frown you can see more crease lines on one side of the face and less on the other, but otherwise you can’t really make out.

Nobody believes I had Bell’s Palsy (except those who met me then, and even then they refused to believe me). They think I’m making it up. It’s a relatively unknown condition.

I stay out of cold water now :slight_smile: Wish your cousin a speedy recovery.

OK. The doctors described it to us as “a minor stroke”. Bad dctors!

Really? I thought those were rather lower. :smiley:

Anyhow, this is interesting, as parents’ neighbor just had an attack and fully recovered in the two months I’ve been down visiting.

I’ve known several people who have had Bell’s palsy.

It took a little time, but all have fully recovered.

Just for the record, it was not that cold. :smiley:

I don’t have a cite, but it’s my understanding that our former prime minister’s (Chretien) “droop” on one side of his face is due to Bell’s Palsy. I first heard that when some ads in a previous election basically made fun of the droop.

My dad has Bell’s Palsy (which was often called Chauffer’s Disease) on one side of his face. He noticed the same symptoms that the OP described, drooping and inability to control one side of his face. He also had pain involved both prior to the drooping and after the drooping.

He was told that the pain was called ‘Trigeminal Neuralgia’ which is basically pain in the trigeminal nerve that is related to a nerve that comes out of the brain and branches to the forehead, upper jaw and lower jaw.

His doctors used a muscle stimulator on him in order to make sure that the muscles in his face (which he couldn’t use) didn’t atrophy and he had to take medication to reduce the inflammation in his trigeminal nerve.

He’s about 90% recovered, which means he still has some visible effect and some difficulty with the left side of his face, but he’s pretty well pain free without medication these days, which seems amazing to me considering how severe things looked when he was first afflicted.

He was also told that it was called chauffer’s disease because the irritation to the nerve was often found in chauffers who spent their time driving a car in cold weather often with the window down - the constant blasting of the left side of their face by cold air caused the nerves to become inflamed.

I don’t know how accurate this is, but he was also told that the more severe the original symptoms, the closer to the surface the problem is (i.e. in surface nerves) and the easier it is to treat and recover from. Perhaps a doctor could enlighten on that.

This review article on Bell’s Palsy appeared today. Since it’s free full text access, and since much of it should be comprehensible even to those without medical knowledge or training, I thought it was worth posting. YMMV.

I had it last winter after I’d had a cold. It’s believed that viruses can set it off. My doctor had me get B12 injections three times a week for a couple of weeks. It was flu-shot season and I asked about getting a flu shot and he advised against it. Why put another virus on top of a virus, is what he said. OTC meds weren’t taking care of the pain and he prescribed Vicodin, which helped a lot.

It was pretty severe at first but after about a month my muscles started twitching and over the next couple of weeks there was a lot of improvement, then gradually back to almost normal after that.

Make sure your cousin knows that the most important thing is to keep the affected eye from drying out. My doctor gave me eye patches but they were a hassle and I just used my finger to close my eyelid a lot to keep it moist and used eyedrops from time-to-time. For sleeping and showering, I tried a lot of different kinds of tape but found that taping my eye shut with plain old scotch tape worked best. I also got some kind of moisturising eye ointment to put in at bedtime.

10 months later the only thing I notice is that my eye is a little funky, especially in the morning or when I’m overly tired. I hope your cousin recovers quickly. I know how depressing it can be to know that it never goes away for some people and wonder if you’re going to be part of that 20%. The worst part for me was the first couple of weeks when my speech was really affected.

What are the odds of doing a search for Bell’s palsy on the SDMB and finding a recent discussion thread? Apparently, pretty good.

At 26, I am currently taking on a second bout with this infliction. I also had Bell’s palsy when I was 12. I went to the doctor last week with an ear infection. He prescribed an antibiotic, but the next day, I awoke with a numb tongue and inability to close my eye. By the end of the day, I was in the doctor’s office again, unable to control the muscles on the left-hand side of my face.

In addition to the antibiotic, I was prescribed steroids and an anti-viral medication. I’m not sure if they pinpointed a virus as the cause, but they are also doing bloodwork and an MRI to rule out other possibilities (Lyme’s disease, a tumor, etc.).

Not being able to completely close my left eye is the most annoying symptom. Fortunately, it stays shut when I sleep, but not blinking all day certainly causes a strain with a bit of blurriness. Getting water in my eye while attempting to wash my face is quite painful. I’ll have to try that Scotch tape, AllShookDown.

Unable to control my lips completely, I cannot whistle to my dog, properly spit toothpaste, eat a sandwich, or (until recently discovering a new method) blow my nose.

Wondering if others can tell that I have difficulty speaking and using facial expressions, makes social interaction a bit awkward. Most of those I told are very sympathetic and concerned. To be honest though, I don’t really feel all that bad. There are much worse conditions that people suffer.

Because of my own history and the fact that my father died of a brain tumor at the age of 30, my mom is quite concerned. I don’t know how those factors might play into the present situation, however, I am hopeful this will clear itself up soon enough. I’ve already had a bit of twitching in the muscles, which seems like a good thing. We’ll see.

I’ve had it twice, once when I was 18, and then again three years ago when I was 28. The first time was on the right side, the second was on the left. Both times, I woke up and one side of my face was paralyzed.

The first time, I had the typical droop, numb on one side of the tounge, some tingling in that side of the face, inability to close the eye completely but no pain. My face drooped, but I could hold water in my mouth, so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I slurred a bit when talking. I was given prednisone, and it cleared up in about two months. You could only see the droop when I was very tired and knew where to look for it.

The second time, it appeared right after I had a nasty chest cold, which I am told is not uncommon. I couldn’t hold water in my mouth this time, and couldn’t use a straw. I couldn’t pucker my lips to hold the suction. I had the eye droop, numb half of tongue and this time, I had branching pain along that side of my face as well, especially in cold weather or drafts. It was bad enough that I cried with the pain. That sucked, as I got it in January in Vermont. putting a warm (but not hot) hot water bottle on my face helped with the pain. Tylenol and such did nothing to help it.
I was given prednisone and aciclovir for treatment.
This time it was severe enough to really affect my speech for several weeks. As I worked primarily on the phone at the time I took 2 weeks of vacation, but when I came back it was still very severe, though I had learned how to talk to make myself understood on over the phone, I still had problems drinking from a glass.
This time it lasted longer - about 5 or 6 months later it was as good as it was going to get. My left eye still droops a tiny bit. I still have a noticiable drag on that side of my mouth when I talk or smile, though I am told that it is not very noticible. This stifness is worse in cold weather or if I have a fan blowing on my face at night. Unfortunately, because of this residual stiffness, I can no longer kiss right :frowning:

I was very self-concious, and it felt like I would never get better. I knew that it gets better slowly, so to keep myself from going completely bonkers, I would test myself every morning when I was brushing my teeth to see if I could hold water in my mouth, or hold my mouth closed while I blew air into it. I still remember the day when I could swear again, without the ‘f’ sound coming out as a weaker ‘ph’.

There is an upside, small though it may be. At 31, I am still mistaken for a 19-20 year old. I have a very smooth and unlined face, with no crows feet or forhead wrinkles at all. …probably because I can’t wrinkle my forehead, but I take positives where I can find them, considering.

I had Bell’s Palsy a couple of years back. I did the steriods, the antibiotics and none of it helped. After three weeks, I went to an accupunturist. It took about six visits (I hate needles), but that was what did the trick. This guy was an Old School Chinese guy who didn’t speak a great deal of English, but did a number on my face, I’ll tell you what.

That Prednisone(sp?) is a nasty business and has a very low rate of success. They just give it to you because they have to do something. I wish you luck!

Thank you so much. I recently had bells palsy and I was trying to find a link between bells palsy and cold water because days and weeks before getting it I was taking a shower via cold water to save money as I was unemployed. Now I think I have an idea.