What Is it? Bell’s palsy, named for British physician Dr. Charles Bell, was first described in 1821. It is a sudden onset (usually over the course of 1-3 days, often overnight) of one-sided flaccid paralysis of the face. Flaccid paralysis means the muscles become hypotonic: soft and weak. This is a typical sign of peripheral motor nerve damage. In the large majority of cases (80-85%), the facial weakness or paralysis is temporary. However, individuals who experience complete paralysis seem to have a poorer recovery rate with only 60% returning to normal.
Statistics: Bell’s palsy affects about 30,000 – 40,000 people a year in the United States. About one out of every 65 people will experience this condition at some point. Pregnant women and people with diabetes are more at risk than the rest of the population and it is most common among people in their 40s. Worldwide, Bell’s palsy affects nearly one in every five thousand people, and almost 40,000 Americans are affected with the disorder annually. There is no difference in occurrence between males and females.
Important Facts: The fact that Bell’s palsy is a diagnosis of exclusion becomes apparent in the course of the medical examination–the usual mode of examination is to rule out other disorders until only Bell’s palsy is left.
What doctors don’t tell you or maybe they don’t know is that 60% of Bell’s palsy patients actually have Lyme disease. The Bells Palsy effect is the Lyme moving into the Acute or Chronic stage. Many doctors especially out here on the West Coast don’t know much about Lyme or even give it merit. If you have Bell’s palsy you need to have a good Lyme test to rule it out, even then you may not have an accurate test.
The prognosis for individuals with Bell’s palsy is generally very good. The extent of nerve damage determines the extent of recovery. Improvement is gradual and recovery times vary. With or without treatment, most individuals begin to get better within 2 weeks after the initial onset of symptoms and most recover completely, returning to normal function within 3 to 6 months.
The fact that Bell’s palsy is a diagnosis of exclusion becomes apparent in the course of the medical examination–the usual mode of examination is to rule out other disorders until only Bell’s palsy is left.
Treatment: Approximately 50% of Bell’s palsy cases clear up on their own within 1 month or less. For those individuals that do not find themselves so lucky, it’s important to begin a treatment regimen immediately to avoid potential long term nerve damage and prolonged facial paralysis. Symptoms often begin to improve right away. However, it may take weeks or even months for the muscles to get stronger, and this may be frustrating. Symptoms often begin to improve right away. However, it may take weeks or even months for the muscles to get stronger, and this may be frustrating
DO’s/Don’ts: Many doctors prescribe an antiviral and/or a steroid for Bell’s palsy, but there is some controversy about whether these drugs actually help. If you have Bell’s palsy they may want to put you on anti-viral medications or steroids. One or both of these will contribute to a negative result for a Lyme test. Standard testing is not recommended. This means the testing that you get where the results come back in three days. You need extensive testing (a FULL PANEL test) test # 6040 from Igenex http://igenex.com 800.832.3200 you can have the test sent to you and Igenex will pay for the test to be sent back return shipping the cost is approx. $ 450. Bell’s palsy can interrupt the eyelid’s natural blinking ability, leaving the eye exposed to irritation and drying. Therefore, keeping the eye moist and protecting the eye from debris and injury, especially at night, is important. Lubricating eye drops, such as artificial tears or eye ointments or gels, and eye patches are also effective.
Common Myths: There is a myth amongst people that Bell’s palsy is an after effect of heart attack or another condition related to heart which is not true. It is true that sometimes heart attack causes facial paralysis but here the reason is entirely different. Bell’s palsy causes diabetes. Although Bell’s palsy suffers have a much higher incidence of diabetes mellitus than the general population, there is absolutely no evidence that Bell’s palsy causes diabetes.