Accurate Diagnosis of Facial Paralysis

Facial paralysis or palsy is the loss of facial movement resulting from inflammation, injury, infection or absence of the facial nerve or facial musculature. Since each side of the face is controlled by its own facial nerve, facial paralysis most commonly affects just one side of the face. Functions affected by facial paralysis include smiling, speaking, chewing and eating.

Potential causes of facial paralysis include the following:

  • Congenital (at birth, trauma or syndromic)
  • Viral infection (Bell's palsy, Ramsay Hunt)
  • Lyme disease
  • Stroke
  • Ear infection
  • Traumatic
  • Surgery
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Autoimmune
  • Tumor (brain, salivary gland)

Accurate diagnosis of facial paralysis begins with the identification of common signs and symptoms such as:

  • Asymmetry of facial features
  • Inability to close the eye or blink
  • Drooping of the lower eyelid, corner of the mouth, nostril, face
  • Inability to express emotions, smile
  • Slurred speech
  • Drooling when eating or drinking

The doctor will ask questions concerning the patient's medical history and perform a physical exam. Once facial paralysis is diagnosed by the presence of the above symptoms, blood tests, imaging scans and additional nerve or muscle electrophysiological tests may be indicated to help determine a cause.

Effective Treatment for Facial Paralysis

The type of treatment for facial paralysis is contingent on the cause and nature of the paralysis and will often necessitate the involvement of various specialists. Treatment may include a combination of medical, surgical and facial nerve specific physical therapy.

Immediate medical treatment is essential in the case of acute paralysis from viral causes such as Bell's palsy. Oral steroids such as prednisone and antiviral medications can decrease the swelling of the nerve and aid recovery. Depending on the type or duration of paralysis, various surgical procedures can either repair nerve damage or reanimate the smile. Other procedures may target specific problems such as eye closure, nasal obstruction or facial asymmetries.

Contact our office today to schedule a consultation for you, a family member or a friend. We are here to help!

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