Bulbar Palsy

Bulbar Palsy is a motor neuron lesion that affects the lower cranial nerves (9, 10, 11, 12). These nerves are responsible for the control of the movement of muscles that are used for chewing and swallowing, as well as movement of the head and neck. While often confused with Pseudobulbar Palsy because both of these diseases share common symptoms, Pseudobulbar Palsy is caused by damage to the upper motor neurons.

Causes of Bulbar Palsy can be from any of the following conditions:

  • Motor neuron disease
  • Cerebrovascular – medullary infarction
  • High brain stem tumors
  • Toxin – Botulism
  • Head injury
  • Neurosyphilis
  • Subacute meningitis (carcinoma, lymphoma)
  • Inflammatory – Guillain-Barré syndrome, Lyme disease

Further testing, along patient history, blood tests, MRI and CT scan will assist in determining the underlying cause of Bulbar Palsy.

Signs and symptoms of Bulbar Palsy include difficulty swallowing, progressive loss of speech, weak jaw and facial muscles, and a weakening of the tongue. With the progression of the disease, additional symptoms can include less prominent weakness in the arms and legs and outburst of laughing or crying (called emotional lability).

Treatment for Bulbar Palsy aims to help people cope with the symptoms of this disease. As there is no cure for Bulbar Palsy, treatment is essentially limited to medical management and support. At New York Facial Paralysis, treatment will be directed to the underlying cause of the syndrome. Medication may include intravenous immunoglobulin and steroids. Physical therapy can help improve posture, slow muscle atrophy, and aid joint mobility. Call our office to schedule a consultation.

Posted on behalf of Dr. Teresa O, New York Facial Paralysis Center

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