Health + Fitness

What's Bell's Palsy And Are You At Risk?

by Rosie McKay

Angelina Jolie revealed to Vanity Fair she'd been diagnosed with Bell's Palsy - what is it and the symptoms? Dr Dasha Fielder explains...

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Credit: Images courtesy of Instagram user @vanityfair

Imagine waking up to find that half of your face drooped... this is exactly what can happen if you get Bell's palsy a condition believed to be linked to an infection or virus resulting in partial facial paralysis. Affecting both men and women aged between 15-65, about 1 in 60 will people have Bell's palsy at some stage in their life.

With Angelina Jolie's recent admission to Vanity Fair about her struggles with Bell's palsy bringing the condition into the spotlight, we decided to get the lowdown from Dr Dasha Fielder, GP, about the causes, symptoms and treatment of Bell's palsy.

What is Bells Palsy?

Bell’s palsy is a form of facial paralysis resulting from trauma  to cranial nerve VII called the Facial nerve. This nerve supplies the muscles to the face, as well as lacrimal and salivary glands and taste to tongue.

Are there any symptoms? What are they?

Symptoms depend on the severity of nerve damage and can be mild to severe.
Most common symptoms include:

  • Facial muscles weakness usually affecting one side of the face
  • Twitching, paralysis
  • Drooping of the eyelid and or corner of the mouth
  • Dryness of eye or mouth
  • Excessing tearing 
  • Impairment of taste 

Symptoms do resemble those of stroke and the most important message is to seek early medical help if any of above symptoms are present. 

What are some of the causes of Bell's Palsy?

Bell’s palsy occurs when facial nerve is compressed, swollen or damaged. Although exact aetiology is unclear it has been suggested that infection with a virus is a common cause .

Which people are most at risk of being affected by Bell's Palsy?

Most cases present between the ages of 20-60. Women and men are equally affected.

Is stress a factor and is it a hereditary condition?

Stress is not believed to be a direct factor and no, it's not ahereditary condition.

Is Bell's Palsy curable?

In most cases paralysis resolves slowly with time, however some residual facial weakness can persist in certain people.

What are some of the treatments for the condition?
If you think you have Bell's Palsy or symptoms of it, what should you do?

 See you doctor as soon as possible [because] differential diagnosis is stroke, therefore it is essential to seek medical help early.

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