Face Drop – Bell’s Palsy
You’ve woken up and looked at yourself in the mirror, one half of your face has dropped and you are unable to make it move. Your first thought is, “OMG I’ve had a stroke!”
F – Face drooping
A – Arm Weakness
S – Speech Difficulty
T – Time to call an ambulance (dial 061 in Andalucia)
If these don’t apply then you could have a facial palsy also known as Bell’s Palsy. While quite scary when it first appears this isn’t a dangerous condition or indicative of anything more sinister. In fact symptoms usually ease within 3-6 months.
What is Bell’s palsy?
First described by Dr Charles Bell in the 19th century as a “weakness or paralysis of the muscles that control expression on one side of the face”
It usually results in a droopy appearance of the face on one side as the muscles become paralysed so stop working.
What causes it?
It occurs when there is a problem with one of the facial or cranial nerves.
There can be a number of factors including stress, illness and diabetes but no clear pattern has emerged so we are still unsure of the exact trigger.
- Bell’s Palsy usually comes on quite quickly, within a few hours. So it can feel like it happens while you are sleeping.
- Often accompanied by ear pain
- Ranges from mild weakness to total paralysis on one side
What to do?
While this can be a bit scary when it starts the effects of Bell’s Palsy can often wear off within 3 months.
In the meantime there are lots of things that you can do to make yourself more comfortable and encourage the best recovery.
Physiotherapy and acupuncture can help to reduce the nerve damage, making recovery faster and reducing any lingering symptoms or compensations. By preventing muscle wastage you can ensure that you return to full function swiftly.
Self help techniques are also important and should be done in the first 6 weeks:
- Take good care of the eye as it cannot blink, close or water properly and it is vulnerable to damage. Use drops, tape the eye closed at night or whenever it feels sore and protect it from draughts by wearing glasses. Get professional help if the eye feels sore or gritty as rubbing the eye may damage the cornea. (Jane Machin at Optica Machin speaks English and can help)
- Massage the face with gentle strokes towards the ear for a maximum of 10 minutes.
- Support the cheek with your hand while talking.
- Be extra careful to keep the affected side of the mouth clean. Lodged food, lack of saliva and lack of taste to that side of the mouth compounds the problems.
- Try not to emphasise movement to the good side of the face.
- Use a straw to drink if necessary but do try to put it in to the centre of the mouth, completing the lip seal with finger pressure.
- Mix with people as soon as possible! The longer you leave it, the harder it gets!