What Is Bell’s Palsy and Is It Permanent?

What Is Bell’s Palsy and Is It Permanent?
Contributor: Lifehacker

New South Wales cabinet minister Victor Dominello made headlines this week when audiences watching at home alerted him to a “droopy eye” they found concerning. After checking out the situation, it was revealed that Dominello was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy.

As Nine News shares, the cabinet minister gave a statement on the findings revealing that:

“At this morning’s press conference – a number of people commented on my droopy eye. Some people thought – I was winking at the cameraman,” he said.

“Some thought I had a stroke. I have actually been diagnosed with Bell’s palsy.”

“The reason I am posting is because hopefully it will remind people to look after their health,” he said.

“We are focussed on Covid but there are plenty of other health problems going on. If you have any health concerns – please get them looked after.”

This is not the first time someone in the public eye has brought the Bell’s palsy condition front of mind.

Angelina Jolie revealed in a Vanity Fair interview that she developed the condition in 2016. She has since recovered, however.

If you’d like to learn a little more about Bell’s palsy and its symptoms, allow us to help.

What is Bell’s palsy and what causes it?

Bell’s palsy is described by Better Health as “paralysis or weakness of the muscles on one side of the face”. Its symptoms can come on quickly but often completely dissapear over time (90% of cases).

The cause of Bell’s palsy is sometimes described as unknown, but it may result from a viral infection that flares up and irritates a nerve that connects your brain to the muscles of your face. Men and women can both get it, but you’re at higher risk if you are pregnant or have diabetes. High blood pressure, which Jolie had, can also make you more likely to develop Bell’s palsy.

Bell’s palsy usually gets better with time for mild cases, but it’s still a good idea to seek treatment. Anti-inflammatory and antiviral drugs help in some cases. Physical therapy can help the muscles of your face to recover, and if your eye doesn’t properly close, you may need artificial tears or other treatments to protect your vision.

For her part, Jolie says acupuncture helped her to recover, and a review of acupuncture for Bell’s palsy found that it seemed to help in some cases — but the available studies are of low quality, so colour me sceptical.

A stroke can also result in a half-paralysed face, so don’t shrug off this symptom. If you do have a stroke, timng is crucial: The faster you get treatment, the less likely you are to suffer long-term damage. Emergency room doctors can tell the difference between Bell’s Palsy and paralysis from a stroke, so make sure to get checked out. As a reminder, your mnemonic for stroke symptoms is FAST:

  • F: Facial numbness or weakness, especially on one side
  • A: Arm numbness or weakness, especially on one side (raise both arms like a zombie; are they level?)
  • S: Slurred speech or difficulty speaking
  • T: Time to call 000

This article has been updated since its original publish date. 

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