Bell’s palsy is a virus that comes on suddenly and causes facial paralysis. Due to its quick onset, many people aren’t prepared and don’t know what to do. Bell’s palsy treatment should happen in two stages; immediate action and if necessary, long term treatment. Facial Nerve expert Dr. Babak Azizzadeh is world renowned for his expertise when it comes to treating Bell’s palsy. After his extensive training at Harvard where he specialized in facial nerve paralysis, Dr. Azizzadeh started the Bell’s Palsy Foundation which offers information and support to people affected by paralysis. He has become a leading figure in the field of facial nerve damage and has been featured on many media outlets including the Oprah Winfrey Show. Dr. Azizzadeh is trained in Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, as well as head and neck surgery which gives him a unique insight into facial nerve function and facial aesthetics. Dr. Azizzadeh will be hosting the International Facial Nerve Symposium in 2017 which is one of the highest honors in the field.
Bell’s Palsy Diagnosis
Most of the time, people with Bell’s palsy wake up and have trouble moving one side of their face. When this happens, it’s important to go to the doctor or emergency room quickly to determine what’s causing the facial paralysis. Unfortunately very few physicians know a lot about Bell’s palsy which makes it a tricky diagnosis. Doctors should perform a variety of tests to rule out other reasons for the paralysis such as a tumor or stroke. The most important aspect of the evaluation is to perform an excellent neurologic and head & neck examination. This will usually allow the experienced doctor to determine that there are no neurologic deficits. At the initial visit other tests are usually not needed other than lyme test if an individual has had potential exposure. Other tests such as MRI or CT scan or electrical testing such EMG and ENoG are rarely needed unless the physician determines that it is necessary. It is crucial to have a follow up with an experienced facial paralysis expert within one to three months after being diagnosed with Bell’s palsy. Your diagnosis of Bell’s palsy is only valid if your face has some return of function and all other evaluations are negative. If your face has not regained its tone and you have not noticed any return of function, a full workup with MRI and other lab tests is necessary to make sure that you do not have a more pressing issue.
Immediate Bell’s Palsy Treatment
After it’s been determined that Bell’s palsy is causing the facial paralysis, the doctor needs to prescribe a high dose of steroids as well as an anti-viral medication such as Valtrex. Time is of the essence, so getting to the doctor and starting the proper medications quickly is of the upmost importance. After taking the medication for recommended amount of time, patients need to wait a full year from the onset before exploring other treatment options. Many people who get Bell’s palsy make a full recovery in the first 12 months. Therefore by pursuing more invasive treatments before a year, you could potentially hinder your body’s ability to heal. Patients should follow up with a facial nerve expert like Dr. Azizzadeh during this time, to monitor progress and make any necessary recommendations.
Long Term Bell’s Palsy Treatment Options
Unfortunately not all Bell’s palsy patients get a full recovery in the first year. Patients who have waited the appropriate amount of time and are left with residual symptoms often want to learn about what options they have to improve their facial function and aesthetics. There are various treatment options available to Bell’s palsy patients ranging from non-invasive to surgical procedures. Patients need to be evaluated by a facial nerve expert like Dr. Azizzadeh in order to find out what options are appropriate to consider. The least invasive treatment option available is facial physical therapy. Dr. Azizzadeh often refers patients to highly specialized facial physical therapists who help patients regain coordination and strength of their facial muscles. Botox has also proven to be an effective treatment for sykinesis (an extreme tightening and mis-coordination of the facial muscles). Injectable fillers can be used to help patients with the aesthetic side effects that often come with Bell’s palsy by improving facial symmetry. There are a variety of surgical options such as selective neurolysis, cross facial nerve grafts, gracilis flaps and others that are available for patients who want the best possible smile and functional outcome. Dr. Azizzadeh spends a great deal of time and creates a completely customized surgical plan based on each patient’s individual needs.
Do Bell’s Palsy Symptoms Go Away?
Bell’s palsy results in sudden weakness of the facial muscles. It can affect individuals at any age, but the condition usually disappears on its own. Oftentimes, Bell’s palsy symptoms improve a few weeks following onset, and these symptoms go away on their own within about six months.
It is important to go to the emergency room immediately at the first sign of weakness on one side of the face, facial drooping and other Bell’s palsy symptoms. If Bell’s palsy symptoms persist for an extended period of time, an individual should consult with a facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon like Dr. Azizzadeh for further evaluation and treatment.
Can Bell’s Palsy Be Permanent?
Although most Bell’s palsy cases are temporary, in a small percentage of the population the facial paralysis from Bell’s palsy becomes permanent. In very rare cases, Bell’s palsy symptoms sometimes may recur several times.
What Triggers Bell’s Palsy?
There is no exact reason why Bell’s palsy occurs, but the condition is often linked to a viral infection. Some of the viruses linked to Bell’s palsy symptoms include:
- Herpes Simplex: Causes cold sores and genital herpes.
- Coxsackievirus: Causes hand-foot-and-mouth disease.
- Epstein-Barr: Causes infectious mononucleosis.
Ultimately, if the nerve that controls the facial muscles becomes infected or irritated, an individual may be susceptible to Bell’s palsy symptoms. In this scenario, the facial nerve becomes inflamed and swollen, and these issues may be linked to a viral infection.
How Long Does It Take to Recover from Bell’s Palsy?
Recovery time varies based on the patient and his or her Bell’s palsy treatment. Generally, the recovery process requires a long-term commitment, and Dr. Azizzadeh does everything possible to help a Bell’s palsy patient prepare for this process.
Additionally, research indicates that approximately 85 percent of Bell’s palsy patients fully recover without any long-term health issues following treatment. Research also shows that approximately 10 percent of Bell’s palsy patients suffer synkinesis and partial facial paralysis after treatment. Meanwhile, about 5 percent of Bell’s palsy patients suffer complete facial paralysis; in this instance, patients require additional facial paralysis treatment.
Can Massage Help Alleviate Bell’s Palsy Symptoms?
Massage is one of several alternative therapies that some Bell’s palsy patient use to help alleviate their symptoms. Yet there is limited scientific evidence to support the use of massage to fully treat Bell’s palsy symptoms. For those who are considering massage or any other alternative therapies for Bell’s palsy, it is paramount to consult with a doctor.
What Is the Fastest Way to Get Rid of Bell’s Palsy?
There is no one-size-fits-all Bell’s palsy treatment for all patients, at all times. Fortunately, an individual who consults with a doctor can receive a proper Bell’s palsy diagnosis. This individual also can work with a doctor to treat his or her Bell’s palsy symptoms.
If Bell’s palsy symptoms persist after several months, Dr. Azizzadeh can help, too. At this point, Dr. Azizzadeh performs a full patient evaluation to identify the root cause of a patient’s Bell’s palsy symptoms. He then offers a personalized treatment recommendation to help a Bell’s palsy patient achieve long-lasting treatment results.
How Can I Treat Bell’s Palsy at Home?
Home remedies are sometimes recommended as part of a Bell’s palsy treatment program. These remedies may include:
- Using eye protection. If a Bell’s palsy patient cannot fully close his or her eye, lubricating eyedrops and/or an eye ointment may be prescribed to help keep the eye moist. A Bell’s palsy patient may be required to wear an eye patch or glasses to protect the eye against scratches as well.
- Taking over-the-counter medications. Ibuprofen, acetaminophen or other over-the-counter medications may be used to help address pain associated with Bell’s palsy symptoms.
- Performing physical therapy exercises. A Bell’s palsy patient may be required to work with a physical therapist during treatment. This therapist can teach a Bell’s palsy patient how to perform various exercises at home to help relax his or her facial muscles.
Dr. Azizzadeh offers full details about any at-home Bell’s palsy treatments. He also responds to a patient’s Bell’s palsy treatment program questions and concerns and works with this individual to ensure that he or she can achieve the best-possible results.
Schedule your Bell’s Palsy Consultation Today!
So, what is the best treatment for Bell’s palsy and the best treatment for facial paralysis? If you are interested in finding out more about the different treatment options available for Bell’s palsy, call The Facial Paralysis Institute to schedule an appointment with leading expert Dr. Azizzadeh.