North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

Health

August 26, 2009

Disorder that affects facial nerve named for Scottish surgeon

Health Watch By Steve Mullenix

Special to The North Jefferson News




Each week, we try to write our articles about something of interest to the community.

A couple of weeks ago I got a call from a customer asking us to write about a relatively common, but somewhat unusual, condition called Bell’s Palsy.

Bell’s palsy is a form of temporary facial paralysis resulting from damage or trauma to one of the two facial nerves. The facial nerve, also called the seventh cranial nerve, is a paired structure that travels through a narrow, bony canal (called the Fallopian canal) in the skull, beneath the ear, to the muscles on each side of the face.

Bell’s palsy is named for Sir Charles Bell, a 19th century Scottish surgeon, who was the first to describe the condition. 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.



Symptoms

Because the facial nerve has so many functions and is so complex, damage to the nerve or a disruption in its function can lead to many problems.

Symptoms of Bell’s palsy vary from person to person and range in severity from mild weakness to total paralysis. Those symptoms may include twitching, weakness or paralysis on one or both sides of the face, drooping of the eyelid and corner of the mouth, drooling, dryness of the eye or mouth, impairment of taste, and excessive tearing in one eye.

Most often these symptoms, which usually begin suddenly and reach their peak within 48 hours, lead to significant facial distortion.

Other symptoms may include pain or discomfort around the jaw and behind the ear, ringing in one or both ears, headache, loss of taste, hypersensitivity to sound on the affected side, impaired speech, dizziness, and difficulty eating or drinking.

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