Green Bay Packers player, Jarius Wynn, was at dinner when all of a sudden his eye began to water and soon after he was not able to close his eye. Wynn was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy. Bell’s palsy is a paralysis or weakness of the muscles on one side of the face. In Bell’s palsy patients, damage to the facial nerve occurs that controls muscles on one side of the face, which then causes that side of the face to droop. An individual’s sense of taste, production of tears and saliva may also be damaged. It is very common that the condition comes on suddenly, often overnight. Dr. Babak Azizzadeh, facial paralysis specialist, and my fellowship director, commented on Wynn’s diagnosis. He stated that it is imperative that patients be treated immediately, begin medication, and that their eyes are protected, as is Wynn’s. Luckily it sounds like Wynn’s doctors are doing a fantastic job treating his condition.
As a Charlotte area facial paralysis-Bells Palsy expert, I treat patients with facial paralysis. Facial paralysis, or the loss of muscle tone on one half of the face, has significant functional, aesthetic, and emotional consequences. To address this, there are many treatments to improve eating, breathing, eye protection, and symmetry of the face. Improvement of the function and appearance of the face can have a profound impact on the patient’s psyche. Facial paralysis is a very complicated condition and should only be treated by an expert. Doctors who do not have extensive knowledge in facial paralysis can misdiagnose the cause of the paralysis, which may be detrimental to a patient.
The most common form of facial paralysis is Bell’s Palsy, which is caused by inflammation of the facial nerve. This inflammation causes the nerve to swell and prevents the nerve from passing signals between the brain and the facial muscles. The exact cause of the inflammation is not known, but most people believe it is from a virus. The onset of Bell’s palsy is very abrupt and reaches its peak within 48 hours. Many patients report that their face suddenly feels stiff or pulled to one side. The prognosis from Bell’s palsy is relatively good. 85% of patients suffering from Bell’s palsy will completely recover without any signs of facial asymmetry, 10% of patients will have an incomplete recovery with lingering facial weakness, and 5% of patients will have complete facial paralysis or significant synkinesis.
By training under one of the country’s premiere facial paralysis surgeons, I have a distinctive insight into facial nerve function and facial aesthetics, and have authored numerous book chapters on the subject. This knowledge provides my patients in Charlotte with customized facial paralysis treatment options.