Characterized by a facial drooping on one side, Bell’s palsy is a facial condition that is often temporary but that can result in permanent facial weakness. The onset of muscle weakness can happen over a matter of hours or days. Those suffering from Bell’s palsy often have a one-sided smile and an eye that resists closing. For many patients, symptoms begin to diminish after a few weeks, allowing for total recovery over several months. In rare cases, Bell’s palsy can affect both sides of the face or return after apparent full recovery.
Symptoms and Causes
Because one-sided facial paralysis or weakness is also a symptom of a stroke, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. Additional symptoms of Bell’s palsy include pain around the jaw and ear, drooling, headache, hyperacusis (sensitivity to sound), and a decreased ability to taste food. The condition is often linked to exposure to one of many viral infections that cause inflammation and swelling of the facial nerve that controls facial muscles. The same nerve pathway affects saliva, taste, tear production, and the inner ear function. The viruses that have been linked to Bell’s palsy include mumps (mumps virus), flu (influenza B), infectious mononucleosis (Epstein-Barr virus), German measles (rubella), cold sores and genital herpes (herpes simplex), and chickenpox and shingles (Herpes varicella-zoster).
Because each patient’s circumstances are different, it is important for patients to consult their physicians first. Corticosteroids and antiviral drugs are commonly used as treatment. However, because even temporary paralysis can result in long-term damage to muscles by atrophy and fibrosis, a few patients go to a physical therapist for treatment and instruction in how to manage and exercise facial muscles to try to prevent long-term complications. Surgery was once used to decompress the bony passageway of the facial nerve, but this option is now considered too drastic because of the risk of causing permanent damage to the nerve.
Bell’s Palsy and Fat Transfer
For patients who suffer from long-term weakness and facial paralysis, cosmetic procedures can help improve the overall appearance and restore some facial symmetry, even though cosmetic options cannot restore muscular function. Fat transfer to the face uses the patient’s own adipose tissue (collected with a minor liposuction procedure from the belly or back), which gives volume and shape to the affected parts of the face, as well as impart glow and sheen to the skin. While a fat transfer has fewer complications than the injection of artificial substances available as cosmetic fillers, transferred fat can also be partially reabsorbed by the body, especially when damaged during the transfer. At Spring of Youth Medical Group, we use PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) or the Stromal Vascular Fraction (SVF), extracted from fat and rich in stem cells, to help maximize the positive effects and add durability to the transferred fat. Learn more about our fat transfer protocols and other available procedures.
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