Symptoms and Causes of Facial Palsy

Symptoms

Facial palsy is a general term referring to the weakening of the facial muscles. When the facial nerve does not function properly, facial muscles consequently will not function normally. Facial paralysis of the affected part of the face results, which can impact the mouth, eyes, and neck. Facial palsy can be preceded by pain behind the ear, and manifests itself usually within 48 hours with some or all of the following characteristics presenting:

  • Numbness in the face.
  • Lack of expression in face, inability to smile/frown.
  • Inability to control eyelids. This can lead to dryness of the eyes and, in extreme cases, a damaged cornea.
  • As each side of the face is controlled by its own individual facial nerve, symptoms typically present on only one side of the face.

Causes

There are many potential causes for facial palsy. Some possible causes are as follows:

  • Infection: Herpes Simplex Virus, Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, Lyme Disease
  • Congenital – Improperly developed facial nerves, or developmental abnormalities. Facial palsy is present at birth rather than acquired after or during childbirth.
  • Birth Trauma – Injury sustained to the facial nerve during childbirth, for example pressure within the birth canal.
  • Autoimmune Disease – Sarcoidosis
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Stroke

Facial Palsy Treatment

Treatment for facial palsy includes both medical and surgical options. Medical treatment is indicated for infectious causes and consists of administering corticosteroids (Prednisone) and antiviral agents (valacyclovir).

Surgical treatment of facial palsy is necessary when medical treatment does not result in full recovery.

It is imperative that protection of the cornea be a priority when control of the eyelids is lost or impaired. Lack of tears and exposure to trauma can lead to corneal damage. Isotonic saline solution, natural tears, lubricant jelly, and an eye patch or tape should be used to facilitate closing of the eye, particularly during sleep. An eyelid weight may also be an option.

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