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Here’s everything you need to know about Bell’s Palsy

From the symptoms and treatments to the causes of Bell’s Palsy, here’s everything you need to know…

You may not have heard of Bell’s Palsy before, but the chances are that it will have made its way onto your radar this week, with Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie revealing recently that she had suffered with the condition.

The 42-year-old actress explained how she was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy following her divorce, with Angelina Jolie splitting from her husband Brad Pitt in September last year.

The sudden talk around the often unknown condition has led thousands of people to wonder what Bell’s Palsy actually is, whether it’s serious and what can cause it.

Don’t sweat – here’s everything you need to know about the condition…

What is Bell’s Palsy?

Bell’s Palsy is a temporary condition involving the muscles weakening on one or both sides of the face. While in minor cases this can lead to facial twitching, more extreme cases can lead to the face becoming temporarily paralysed.

While Bell’s Palsy can happen to anyone, affecting one in 5,000 people each year, the NHS has explained that the most common sufferers are aged between 15 and 60, with pregnant women and diabetes and HIV sufferers being at particular risk.

 

What are the symptoms of Bell’s Palsy?

The symptoms of Bell’s Palsy vary depending on the person and the severity of the particular case. Some people experience mild muscle weakness, known as ‘partial palsy’, while others suffer more extreme symptoms known as ‘complete palsy’ involving the paralysis of the face. Warning signs to look out for are an inability to move facial muscles, whether it comes as difficulty chewing or an inability to raise your eyebrows. Other symptoms include a reduced sense of taste and a difficulty with speech, eating and drinking.

What are the causes of Bell’s Palsy?

People often jump to the assumption that Bell’s Palsy is caused by stress, however it’s actually said to be most closely linked to facial nerve damage, with doctors believing that the condition could be connected to viral infections. The most common cause however is said to be the herpes virus, which due to its side effects inflaming the facial nerves, is reportedly responsible for a lot of Bell’s Palsy cases.

How long does Bell’s Palsy last?

Bell’s Palsy is temporary in most cases, with approximately 70% of people diagnosed with the condition making a full recovery. However the duration of the illness varies depending on the person, with symptoms usually fading from around two weeks. A full recovery can take much longer though, with some people reporting their symptoms ending at around the nine month mark.

It is also important to note that 20% of the people affected will experience more permanent symptoms, from persistent facial weakness to long-term eye problems.

How can you treat Bell’s Palsy?

Many people make a complete recovery from Bell’s Palsy without treatment, but Prednisolone (a form of Corticosteroid) can be used to lessen the facial nerve swelling. You should contact your doctor as soon as you notice the symptoms.

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