What is Bell's Palsy?
Bell's palsy is a form of temporary facial paralysis resulting from damage or trauma to the 7th cranial (facial) nerve,
resulting in facial weakness or 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.
What are the Symptoms?
Symptoms of Bell's palsy can vary from person to person and may include twitching, weakness, or paralysis on one or rarely both sides of the face. Other common symptoms include drooping of the eyelid and corner of the mouth, drooling, dryness of the eye or mouth, and impairment of speech and/or taste. Most of the symptoms begin suddenly and reach their peak within 48 hours, lead to significant facial distortion.
What Causes Bell's Palsy?
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. 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.
Western Medicine Treatment
Steroids, such as the prednisone, used to reduce inflammation and swelling are effective in treating Bell's palsy. Other drugs such as acyclovir, ,used to treat viral herpes infections ,may also shorten the course of the disease. Analgesics such as aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen may relieve pain.
As Bell's palsy can interrupt the eyelid's natural blinking ability, leaving the eye exposed to irritation and drying, keeping the eye moist and protecting the eye from debris and injury, especially at night, is important. Lubricating eye drops and eye patches can be used.
Other therapies for Bell's Palsy include physical therapy, facial massage or acupuncture.
Traditional Chinese Medicine - Causes and Treatments
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the diagnosis for Bell’s Palsy is termed “External Wind-Cold attacking the channels of the face”. According to TCM principles, one of the main implications of this condition is an underlying qi (a person’s inherent energy) deficiency.
In China, acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to assist in Bell’s Palsy recovery, and the initial treatment goal according to TCM would be to expel Wind and resolve Damp, as well as to invigorate qi and promote blood circulation to the face. Consistent acupuncture treatments (usually recommended once or twice per week), can help soothe a patient, expedite the paralysis from dissipating, and enhance nerve function.
The Chinese Herbal formula, Qian Zheng San (Lead to Symmetry Powder), which has the function of expels wind and open channels is often modified according to the patient's condition for treating Bell's Palsy.
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