There are many different types of paralysis that a person might face. One type of paralysis is facial paralysis. As implied, this type of paralysis affects a person’s ability to move muscles on their face. If you have a loved one who you think might have facial paralysis, you should get them help as soon as possible. Here, I will discuss facial paralysis in more detail to help you understand if they might have this condition. If your loved one was recently diagnosed with this type of paralysis, you can also find more information to get them the help that they need.
Definition and Causes
Facial paralysis is characterized by loss of voluntary facial movement that generally results from nerve damage. Facial paralysis can affect one side of a person’s face or both sides. In most cases, this type of paralysis makes a person’s face look like it is drooping, again either on one side or both sides.
There are a few different common causes of facial paralysis. This condition might be caused by:
- Bell’s palsy
- Head trauma
- A tumor in the head or the neck
- Inflammation/infection in the facial nerves
- Ear infection or ear damage
- Lyme disease
- Skull fracture
- Face injury
- An autoimmune disease, for example, multiple sclerosis
- Ramsay-Hunt Syndrome
- Complications at birth, although when this is the cause, paralysis is usually temporary
Depending on the cause, facial paralysis might develop suddenly, or it might develop slowly over a long period of time. Again, depending on the cause, this paralysis may be temporary or permanent.
Two causes of facial paralysis mentioned above that are worth discussing in more detail are Bell’s palsy and stroke. Bell’s palsy is the most common cause of facial paralysis. Bell’s palsy causes a sudden inflammation in the face’s nerves, which can cause muscles to become weak or droop. The cause of Bell’s palsy is unknown, although some research indicates that it is linked to viral infection in facial nerves. This condition can come on suddenly, but luckily, most people recover from this issue. Many people will see a full recovery within six months of a Bell’s palsy diagnosis.
Stroke is another common and serious cause of facial paralysis. During a stroke, nerves in the brain that control facial muscle function can be damaged. If this happens, facial paralysis may be a result. Excessive pressure can damage these brain cells. Alternatively, lack of oxygen can cause damage. Either way, damage to brain cells happens quickly and can have permanent consequences.
If you suspect that your loved one has facial paralysis, but it has not yet been diagnosed, watch out for these symptoms:
- Drooping of the face (either one side or both sides)
- Facial muscle weakness
- Slurred speech
- Ear pain
- Difficulty chewing food or drinking liquids
- Issues tasting food
- Inability to control blinking
If you notice any of these symptoms in your loved one, they could have facial paralysis. It is best to contact a doctor for more information.
Diagnosis and Treatment
A doctor can diagnose facial paralysis or some other condition in your loved one. If they suspect that your loved one has facial paralysis, they will run tests to see if this is a possibility. Common tests to diagnose facial paralysis include electromyography, blood tests, and imaging scans. A doctor should also observe your loved one to see if they notice any of the symptoms.
If your loved one is diagnosed with this issue, treatment will depend on the cause of the condition. But, common forms of treatment include:
- Oral steroids
- Physical therapy
- Eye lubricants
As previously mentioned, some cases of this issue are temporary and will actually heal on their own. This is usually the case if Bell’s palsy or birth complications caused the issue. However, in a case such as for a stroke, damage to the facial nerves and brain cells may be permanent. If this is the case, treatment might help but won’t be able to cure the paralysis.
Helping Your Loved One
If you suspect that your loved one has facial paralysis, take them to see a doctor as soon as possible. Even if they do not have facial paralysis, they might have some other issue that is causing problems. If your loved one is diagnosed with facial paralysis, do your best to help them with their treatment and with everyday tasks that might be difficult, such as brushing their teeth, eating, drinking, etc. For more information, you can contact my office. I am happy to answer your questions and help in any way that I can.