By Dr. Mercola
Bell’s palsy is a neurological condition that causes temporary facial paralysis due to inflammation of the seventh cranial nerve, also known as the facial nerve. This nerve is responsible for transmitting signals between the brain and the muscles that allow you to perform common face-related actions, such as blinking, chewing and projecting emotional expressions.
The condition is accredited to Sir Charles Bell, a 19th century Scottish surgeon who discovered the relation between the facial nerve and the corresponding muscles it controls.1
Common Misconceptions Regarding Bell's Palsy
Due to the peculiar symptoms of Bell’s palsy, not many people have an understanding of this disease, and children who have it are sometimes even bullied.2 Other common misconceptions about this condition include:3
• Chewing Gum Can Help Repair Your Paralysis
This advice is commonly given to people with Bell’s palsy, as it’s said to help regain muscle control. However, it may actually worsen your condition because the movement may cause synkinesis, which is the incorrect rebuilding of damaged nerves.
• Cold Temperatures Can Cause Bell’s Palsy
Some people with Bell’s palsy believe that their condition was caused by exposure to cold temperatures, but this isn’t true.
• Bell’s Palsy Is a Form of Stroke
Bell’s palsy can be confused with stroke because both conditions can cause paralysis. However, their difference lies in how they occur. Bell’s palsy results from inflammation in the cranial nerve, while stroke occurs due to blood flow being cut off in a part of the brain.
Symptoms of Bell's Palsy and How It Is Diagnosed
The defining indicator of Bell’s palsy is facial paralysis on one side (unilateral facial nerve palsy) or both sides (bilateral facial nerve palsy). It’s important to note that the degree of paralysis differs depending on the damage sustained by the cranial nerve. You may find it difficult to move the cheeks and/or a corner of your mouth when it is open. Here are other possible symptoms you can develop:4
• Problems controlling the eye: You may find it difficult to blink one or both eyes. Tear production is also affected, which can lead to dry eyes.
• Sensory problems: Your sense of taste may become altered, and sounds may seem louder in the ear of the affected side.
• Onset of pain: Pain in front of or behind the affected ear may develop, as well as headaches.
Diagnosis of Bell’s palsy often involves a visual examination and movement tests. Your doctor will ask you to try and move facial muscles to evaluate your condition. Other tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can help determine the cause of the paralysis. In addition, electromyography can help confirm the extent of the nerve damage.5
Learn All About Bell's Palsy in This Guide
This guide will help you learn all about Bell’s palsy, from its causes to treatments you can follow. Facial paralysis can cause a great deal of stress in your life, but with this guide, you can learn how to face any potential challenges caused by Bell’s palsy.