Bells Palsy - Medical Malpractice Lawyers

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Bells Palsy - Medical Malpractice

Bell's palsy is an uncommon paralysis of the muscles on one side of the face. It affects about 40,000 Americans per year. It looks a lot like a person having a stroke but is much more benign than that. It is caused by damage to the facial nerve as it exits the bony foramen in the skull. The facial nerve innervates the muscles on one side of the face. It affects the muscles that close the eye, moves the mouth and controls things like smiling and grimacing. The face begins to droop and the effect can take minutes to several hours to become fully involved. How you make tears and saliva production is affected by the facial nerve so these are impaired when the nerve becomes damaged. It often takes several weeks or even months to resolve completely and some people never fully recover their symptoms.

It's important to recognize that Bell's palsy is not the result of having a stroke or having a transient ischemic attack. It is not all that dangerous and is more unsightly than anything. No one knows exactly how people get Bell's palsy. Some doctors believe that there is an infection by the herpes virus-the same one that causes cold sores-that contributes to paralysis of the facial nerve. Bell's palsy is almost never bilateral. It is a unilateral condition that affects one side of the face or the other. The nerve is inflamed and it cannot function properly.

The main symptoms of Bell's palsy include facial paralysis on one side of the face. All of the muscles innervated by the facial nerve are affected by Bell's palsy. You have a droopy eyelid and either too many tears or a very dry eye. Your mouth drools because the facial muscles can't keep the saliva in the mouth. You can't taste on that side of your mouth and you may have a pain in your ear, in front of your ear or behind your ear. There is complete or partial numbness of the affected part of your face. You have an increased sensitivity to sound. Sounds seem disordered or just too loud. Fortunately, the other ear is able to balance out the bad ear and you can hear well enough to get by.

The diagnosis of Bell's palsy is relatively simple. People come to see the doctor, usually quite concerned, because they think they are having a stroke. With a quick exam, the doctor can determine that no other body area is affected besides the face and will see the facial weakness and numbness so typical of Bell's palsy. A good neurological exam can determine whether or not the condition is Bell's palsy. There are no blood tests to determine Bell's palsy. A nerve conduction study can be done if there is any question of what the real problem is. There are more serious causes of facial paralysis that are rarer but that have to be proved not the case.

There are no known risk factors for Bell's palsy that have been identified. It is found to be in men just as much as in women. It is relatively uncommon in children.

Bell's palsy often gets better on its own. It takes about one to two months to get better. Some doctors prescribe prednisone or another corticosteroid to ease the inflammation caused by Bell's palsy. Other treatments include acyclovir, which is an antiviral medication directed at herpes virus infections. The goal is to get rid of infection and get rid of inflammation.

You also need to consider taping your eye at night and using eye drops called artificial tears if the eye is dry. If you cannot close your eye properly, you might get a corneal abrasion at night if you don't tape your eye shut.

LEGAL HELPLINE: ☎ 855 804 7125

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The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here