Having “Your Bell Rung” – Bell’s Palsy by Dr. James Okun

It is time for James Okun to pick our brain and inform us on some important medical matters. You can show your support by buying his books or leaving a comment here if you like- Jeyran Main

James D. Okun, MD is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Duke University and of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. He is the co-author of The History of New Innovations in Modern Medicine: New Thought and the Threat to Traditional Medicine

Having “Your Bell Rung” – A Discussion of a Problematic Condition –  Bell’s Palsy by Dr. James Okun

                 “A young George Clooney recovering from Bell’s palsy on his left side”

                                       (derived from carolinafacialplasticsurgery.com)


Can you imagine from one day to the next that you are unable to smile or eat normally? That you have trouble speaking and eating? That you start drooling and your eyelid droops? What about work and taking care of the family? All of this can happen “out of the blue” with the same condition of Bell’s palsy that affected a teenaged George Clooney.

As you can see from the photo of a young George Clooney above, his face appears to be paralyzed and the corner of his mouth is drooping all on the left side of his face. At the time of this photo, George was recovering from what is known as Bell’s palsy.

Another person who also suffered from Bell’s palsy was BBC correspondent John Sudworth. After he reported on his own facial paralysis on the air, many viewers contacted him to share their stories.

One viewer, Debbie Johnston from Ireland, shared that her condition started after the birth of her son. She describes how she had to tape down her eyelid at night “for four months and drink through a straw for the same amount of time. At this time, I also owned a bridal store and had to return to work and with my face so disfigured I found it all very difficult and felt I had to explain to each customer what was wrong with my face.”

“My face is about 90% recovered …but “I still have a wonky smile, I can’t raise my right eyebrow and when I smile my right eyebrow lowers and when I close my right eye it pulls the right side of my mouth.” (Bell’s palsy: Your stories of living with half a smile (www.bbc.com).

Bell’s palsy is a one-sided facial weakness or paralysis that ensues suddenly often with an eyelid droop and often with the muscles on the same side of the forehead affected. The cause of Bell’s palsy has been determined to be an infection of the 7th cranial nerve (facial) with the herpes simplex type 1 virus.

The facial nerve controls the muscles of facial expression, production of tears from the lacrimal gland, production of saliva from the salivary gland under the tongue (sublingual) and the sensation of taste from the anterior two-thirds of the tongue

Because of the damage to the facial nerve from the HSV 1 infection, other symptoms reflecting impaired functioning can include facial muscle twitching, a change in taste, drooling, trouble eating and speaking and dryness of the eyes.

The facial nerve connects the brain with the muscles of the face to allow facial movement. When damage to the nerve occurs from infection, the normal flow of nerve impulses to the muscle is interrupted. This either causes spasm of the muscles or a complete paralysis.

Bell’s Palsy joins the ranks of other conditions caused by reactivation of a dormant or hibernating herpes simplex 1 virus inside nerve cells. For example, Alzheimer’s Disease has now also been linked in over 100 Scientific studies to recurrent HSV 1 infections in the brain (See – The History of New Innovations in Modern Medicine Chapter 10 https://goo.gl/yYdgLJ).

As the most common cause of one-sided facial paralysis (70%), Bell’s palsy affects about 40,000 Americans each year and there is a 1.5% chance of a person being affected by this condition at some point in their lives.

The most common age range for this dilemma is from 15-60 with males and females both equally at risk (www.ninds.nih.gov).

Bell’s Palsy can be “self-limiting” lasting for only 2 to 4 weeks or so. In other cases, the symptoms can last for up to 6 months or never resolve at all. Other patients can experience recurrences after the initial episode.

Physical Examination and an EMG nerve study are the keys to a diagnosis of Bell’s palsy.

Treatments for Bell’s palsy include the use of steroids to decrease inflammation and anti-viral medications to treat the herpes infection. In resistant cases, nerve repair or grafts can be attempted. Eye patches and/or moisturizing eye drops may be needed to prevent corneal damage in the affected eye.

Those at increased risk for Bell’s palsy include diabetics, those with compromised immune systems and those experiencing a current upper respiratory infection.

Bell’s palsy can be a personal devastation totally disrupting one’s life with lingering residual effects. Like other conditions caused by members of the herpes virus family, taking measures to enhance natural immunity and decrease unnecessary stress remains the best course of action to try to prevent reactivation of this insidious virus.

James D. Okun, MD is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Duke University and of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. He is the co-author of The History of New Innovations in Modern Medicine: New Thought and the Threat to Traditional Medicine






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