If you experience weakness or notice a drooping on one side of your face, you may have Bell’s palsy. While this condition comes on suddenly and goes away in relatively short order, you can decrease the chances of it happening. And, if it does happen, you can pave the way for a speedy recovery and thus decrease the amount of time you experience the condition. Learn to put your best face forward!
Bell’s palsy is a temporary paralysis of cranial nerve number seven, called the facial nerve. The nerve runs from the brain, specifically the base of the brain stem, to the side of the face. It provides both sensation and movement to the muscles of the face. This malady presents on one side of the face. It comes on suddenly, and often goes away on its own in anywhere between ten days and six months.
Facial paralysis may be caused by several conditions, including but not limited to a brain tumor, stroke, HIV, and Lyme disease; however, if no specific cause can be identified, the condition is known as Bell’s palsy.
Patients with Bell’s palsy complain of the inability to use various muscles of the face, such as those used for smiling, winking, or blinking, and notice a general paralysis on one side of the face. Loss of taste is also common due to the fact that the facial nerve provides input for 68 percent of the tongue. Symptoms appear very quickly, often overnight.
The paralysis is due to an irritation at the root of the facial nerve. As a result, inflammation occurs in the branches that come off the nerve and the muscle that attaches to the nerve. Until the viral process subsides, symptoms such as facial paralysis persist.
There are no known direct causes of Bell’s palsy. However, there are several maladies and viruses that may be correlated. The herpes virus is most commonly linked to this malady. The virus, often latent in the body for months before manifesting in symptoms, can inflame the facial nerve, causing it to malfunction. Symptoms resolve, often spontaneously, as the virus runs its course throughout the body. Luckily the symptoms can be corrected with greater speed when facial exercises are regularly performed.
- Eat a healthful diet! Consuming a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals from whole foods and avoiding stimulants such as coffee, alcohol, and cigarettes keeps the body balanced and the immune system in check, therefore decreasing the chances of contracting this malady.
- De-stress! Stress may increase chances of Bell’s palsy. Practice stress reduction withbreathing techniques, journaling, or meditation.
- Sleep! A tired body translates to a weakened immune system. A weakened immune system means your body is more prone to attack.
- Avoid inflammatory foods. Eating highly processed, inflammation-inducing foods may contribute to the onset of Bell’s palsy. Make whole foods 95 percent of your daily diet, leaving junk food for special occasions. For further assurance against the onset of Bell’s palsy, focus your diet on anti-inflammatory foods.
- Exercise. Add the prevention of Bell’s palsy to the list of reasons to exercise. Regular exercise keeps your connective tissue hydrated, allowing for information to flow freely and easily between each and every area of your body. That along, with keeping your blood moving and muscles limber, decreases the chances of this malady.
- Be aware. If you notice any changes in your face, see a doctor immediately. The sooner you begin treatment, the faster you heal.
- Face care. To prevent the facial muscles from sustained or permanent tightness, massage your forehead, cheeks, and lips with oil or cream daily. Use your fingertips to make small circular motions in one area at a time. Spend as little as thirty seconds to a few minutes in each region.
- Eye care. The eye on the affected side of the face often cannot close. An inability to close the eye causes dryness that may lead to sores and potential impaired vision. To prevent the eye from drying, use eye drops or ointment to add moisture. Consult your doctor regarding how often and when to use drops and ointment. It may also be helpful to manually open and close your eye throughout the day as well as wear an eye patch while you sleep, if not throughout the day.
- Mouth care. Loss of taste or sensation of the tongue is not only annoying but also opens the door to food getting stuck in the back of your mouth, leading to potential gum disease or tooth decay. Spend extra time to brush and floss your teeth in the morning and evening. Eat slowly and mindfully, specifically chewing your food thoroughly; the more you chew, the less likely food will get stuck in the mouth. Finally, drink plenty of water while eating to help move food from your mouth to your digestive tract.