By Dr. Mercola
Bell’s palsy is essentially a temporary muscle paralysis that affects one or both sides of the face due to various factors. The main organ affected is the facial nerve, also known as the seventh (VII) cranial nerve, which travels through the Fallopian canal,1 the longest bony canal in your body that contains a nerve.2
Who Is Bell and What Is a Palsy?
Bell’s palsy is named after Sir Charles Bell (1774-1842), a Scottish surgeon who also had a keen interest in medical education and anatomy. He graduated from the University of Edinburgh and transferred to London where he practiced and taught medicine for 30 years before returning to his hometown to work as a surgery professor.
In 1831, he was knighted for his services. Throughout his medical career, he published essays on various topics that were usually accompanied with detailed illustrations.3,4
Bell discovered that the seventh cranial nerve controlled the facial muscles and the expressions it can create, and that any sort of lesion to the nerve led to facial paralysis.5 He published his findings in a group of essays in 1806, titled “Essays on the Anatomy of Expression in Painting.”6
On the other hand, “palsy” is a term used to describe a form of paralysis accompanied by involuntary tremors.7 There are other types of palsy that you can develop, such as cerebral palsy,8 bulbar palsy9 and Erb’s palsy.10
The Main Indicators of Bell's Palsy
The paralysis caused by Bell’s palsy can range anywhere from mild to severe, depending on the damage to the cranial nerve. Some of the most notable symptoms include:11,12
• Partial or complete facial paralysis: If the paralysis is partial, you’ll experience mild muscle weakness on the affected side. Complete paralysis has no movement at all, but this rarely happens.
• Taste problems: Your tongue can be affected by the paralysis, and you’ll notice an impaired or altered sense of taste.
• Hearing issues: There’s a chance you can develop tinnitus in one or both ears.
• Mouth problems: Pain may develop around the jaw, along with dryness of the gums. Drooling may occur as well.
• Speech impairment: Your speech may suddenly become compromised.
Is Bell's Palsy Contagious?
To set the record straight, Bell’s palsy is not a contagious condition. However, be aware that several causes of Bell’s palsy are contagious, and can be passed on to others, increasing their chances of Bell’s palsy as well.13
It’s discovered that various microbial diseases such as influenza, cold sores and Lyme disease can cause Bell’s palsy among different people. The infection can reach your Fallopian canal, resulting in inflammation and loss of blood and oxygen. This leads to partial or complete facial paralysis, along with other symptoms.