We tend to only know about things when they affect us, or someone close to us. I can honestly, but sadly say before I had Bell’s Palsy, I had misconceptions of exactly what it was. I have always considered myself knowledgeable in all things dealing with the body, and for some reason, Bell’s Palsy is one in which I had misunderstood-A LOT. So, what exactly is Bell’s Palsy, how does one get it, is it permanent, how does it change you?
What is Bell’s Palsy?
Bell’s Palsy(also known as Facial Palsy) occurs when the 7th cranial nerve is inflamed, swollen, or compressed and is typically characterized by drooping or paralysis of the face on the affected side. Symptoms of BP go beyond just drooping and paralysis though, it is often accompanied by lack of taste or a weird tinny taste on the tongue, over production or under production of tears on the affected side, severe neck pain/head pain, extreme fatigue, light sensitivity, numbness in body and extremity of affected side, blurred vision in affected side, super sensitivity to sound, drooling, facial tics and so much more.
How do you get Bell’s Palsy?
Bell’s Palsy is not contagious, but it comes about with several key factors. Most people with a Bell’s diagnosis will tell you that it feels like a perfect storm of issues, with the most defining factor being 7th nerve involvement, since this is the one that affects the face the most, and is typically how most people get diagnosed. There is good evidence to support that a previous or current virus also has involvement, this can be as simple as a cold sore to something more complex like that case of Chicken Pox you had as a child, your immunity cannot currently handle the inactive virus, and it is then onset in your system. There are a vast number of people who will say they either had an ear infection or tooth/mouth infection on the affected side before the onset of BP as well, and high blood pressure is also associated. Now, the biggest and most frequent common denominator of BP diagnosis seems to be stress. And not run of the mill stress, but consistent, extreme stress. This is what most believe suppresses the immunity, elevates that blood pressure and causes the dormant virus to pop back up in your system. There are other factors that happen in reoccurring cases(environment being one), but that seems to vary widely, and is worth joining a support group to talk to those that have reoccurring cases for their input.
Is Bell’s Palsy Permanent?
Typically Bell’s Palsy is not permanent. The symptom’s for most disappear in 2-3 weeks with full recovery within 6 months. There are those, however, that this is becomes a permanent thing. And yes, it can affect both sides of your face simultaneously(sykinesis), or affect one side initially and then affect the other side at some point in time. Bell’s Palsy is not a highly researched medical condition, but doctor’s have a better understanding and a better protocol for treatment now than previously.
How do you treat Bell’s Palsy?
With the majority of Bell’s patients, they will be given a round of prescriptive steroids and anti-viral meds. This typically does the trick, but most people will incorporate physical modalities to assist the medicine in the healing process. Acupuncture, massage therapy, physical therapy, cranio sacral therapy, and chiropractics are just a few ways patients will seek to deal with their symptoms in hopes of speeding along and dealing with their condition. Rest is the most crucial Rx, as your body will need it to recuperate, regroup and rebound to a better state, to make it more able to deal with all of what is going on. Hot compresses will be beneficial, as well as a good pain reliever, the level of pain reliever depends on the person, OTC works for most people. OH, and hopefully you will be able to find a way to eliminate that stress, since that is typically what will make the pain worse.
How does Bell’s Palsy change you?
This question will be best answered case by case.
Personally, my mind was not giving up, but my body did, and by doing so, it helped to alleviate the horrible level of stress that I was living with. I did not realize I was AS stressed out as I was. I am not talking normal everyday stress, I am talking crazy bad stress that I had been dealing with for years, which made my ability to deal with every day stress basically non-existent. I was stressed to the point that I felt hopeless, despite my positive, can do attitude. I think the thing that aggravates me most is the advice I get from well-meaning people…everyone has an answer for you, and if I am being completely honest, I passed those suggestive coping mechanisms a long time ago. I had done those things years ago and they worked at the time for a short time, but when you reach the point I was at, there is only one thing that was going to work for me, and it did-Bell’s Palsy. While BP is not something I wish on anyone, I believe it saved me from the stressful existence I was living. It made those around me realize what they were putting me through, it made me actually start to take better care of myself and to give myself more consideration, instead of thinking my life was to just serve others, I needed to serve me too. The fight I had been fighting for myself was finally over, and there is so much more to that statement than most people will ever know.
Physically, the lack of stress is helping with other issues I have had for years, but the Bell’s Palsy symptoms are still here intermittently. How long they will be silently in tow, I don’t know, but I will continue to endeavor to keep my stress at bay to help keep the symptoms at a minimum. Mentally, I have learned that we all need to be a little selfish in our own lives. We cannot possibly serve others’ needs mercilessly and deplete ourselves without requiring a fill up too. Having Bell’s has brought me closer to the ones I love, and helped me to see the relationships that I no longer need to maintain. It has changed me, my perspective, and is helping me find a new sense of self. This is one more cycle in the game of life, and I am greeting it happily, embracing it fully.