So it wouldn’t be too surprising to see her tweeting about her latest medical condition, Bell’s Palsy:
Carnie has also tweeted that she is using acupuncture to treat it.
Bell’s palsy is a form of temporary facial paralysis resulting from damage or trauma to the facial nerve. It is named for Sir Charles Bell, a 19th century Scottish surgeon who was the first to describe the condition.
The facial nerve travels through a narrow, bony canal in the skull, beneath the ear, to the muscles on each side of the face. For most of its journey, the nerve is encased in this bony shell.
The facial nerve also carries nerve impulses to the lacrimal or tear glands, the saliva glands, and the muscles of a small bone in the middle of the ear called the stapes. The facial nerve also transmits taste sensations from the tongue.
When Bell’s palsy occurs, the function of the facial nerve is disrupted, causing an interruption in the messages the brain sends to the facial muscles. This interruption results in facial weakness or paralysis.
The disorder, which is not related to stroke, is the most common cause of facial paralysis. Generally, Bell’s palsy affects only one of the paired facial nerves and one side of the face, however, in rare cases, it can affect both sides.
Bell’s palsy occurs when the nerve that controls the facial muscles is swollen, inflamed, or compressed, resulting in facial weakness or paralysis. Exactly what causes this damage, however, is unknown.
Most scientists believe that a viral infection such as viral meningitis or the common cold sore virus—herpes simplex—causes the disorder. They believe that the facial nerve swells and becomes inflamed in reaction to the infection, causing pressure within the bony canal.
The disorder has also been associated with influenza or a flu-like illness, headaches, chronic middle ear infection, high blood pressure, diabetes, sarcoidosis, tumors, Lyme disease, and trauma such as skull fracture or facial injury.
Bell’s palsy afflicts approximately 40,000 Americans each year. It affects men and women equally and can occur at any age, but it is less common before age 15 or after age 60. It disproportionately attacks people who have diabetes or upper respiratory ailments such as the flu or a cold.
Symptoms of Bell’s palsy can vary from person to person and range in severity from mild weakness to total paralysis. These symptoms may include twitching, weakness, or paralysis on one or rarely both sides of the face. Other symptoms may include:
Most often these symptoms, which usually begin suddenly and reach their peak within 48 hours, lead to significant facial distortion.
Some cases of Bell’s Palsy are mild and do not require treatment as the symptoms usually subside on their own within 2 weeks. For others, treatment may include medications and other therapeutic options.
Recent studies have shown that steroids such as prednisone — used to reduce inflammation and swelling –are effective in treating Bell’s palsy. Other drugs such as acyclovir — used to fight viral herpes infections — may also have some benefit in shortening the course of the disease. Pain medications such as aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen may relieve pain.
Another important factor in treatment is eye protection. Bell’s palsy can interrupt the eyelid’s natural blinking ability, leaving the eye exposed to irritation and drying. Therefore, keeping the eye moist and protecting the eye from debris and injury, especially at night, is important. Lubricating eye drops, such as artificial tears or eye ointments or gels, and eye patches are also effective.
Physical therapy to stimulate the facial nerve and help maintain muscle tone may be beneficial to some individuals. Facial massage and exercises may help prevent permanent contractures (shrinkage or shortening of muscles) of the paralyzed muscles before recovery takes place. Moist heat applied to the affected side of the face may help reduce pain.
Other therapies that may be useful for some individuals include relaxation techniques, acupuncture, electrical stimulation, biofeedback training, and vitamin therapy (including vitamin B12, B6, and zinc), which may help restore nerve function.
Have any of you been diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy? Tell us about your experiences.