Bell’s palsy occurs when there has been damage to facial nerves. When that nerve damage results in temporary facial paralysis, Bell’s palsy is present. While Bell’s Palsy is temporary, it should still be dealt with in order to relieve the symptoms in a timely manner as well as lower the level of pain caused by the nerve damage. With this in mind, there are several treatments that a doctor may try in order to alleviate the problem of facial paralysis stemming from facial nerve damage.
Choosing a Treatment
Problematically from a medical perspective, Bell’s Palsy is different for everyone who develops it. For some, the nerve damage is so slight that no treatment may be medically required at all with symptoms alleviating themselves within two to three weeks. However, with more severe cases, the complications from Bell’s Palsy and the treatment options become more involved. Clearly, the best way to decide how to treat Bell’s Palsy is to talk to a physician. A doctor should be able to determine the severity of the problem as well as come up with a treatment plan that is most likely to work for that individual. Depending upon a physician’s diagnosis and professional opinion on the severity of the problem, as well as the desires of the patients themselves, a variety of potential treatment options may be suggested.
Medicinal Treatments for Bell’s Palsy
One of the most common courses of medically supervised treatment for Bell’s Palsy is the use of prescription medication, oftentimes in conjunction with one another. Typical prescriptions include:
- Pain Medications: At the very lowest level of treatment, over-the-counter treatments such as aspirin may help lower the level of pain caused by the problem. However, a physician may prescribe several other medications.
- Steroids: One of the treatment methods used for Bell’s Palsy that seems to work are steroids. Doctors may prescribe steroids, such as prednisone, that are used to eliminate inflammation, because they have shown to help with Bell’s Palsy as well.
- Antiviral Medications: Medicines used to treat viral herpes have also proved effective in fighting the symptoms of the nerve damage.
Combining steroids and antiviral medications has not proven to speed up the healing process; however, in very severe cases, a doctor may prescribe the antiviral medicine Valtrex along with prednisone.
Physical Therapy Options to Treat Bell’s Palsy
Outside of prescription medication, some patients find physical therapy helpful at speeding up the recovery process. One of the potential long-term effects of Bell’s Palsy is permanent contractures as the result of shortened and shrunken muscles caused during the paralysis. In order to counter-effect this potential problem, a physical therapist may teach the sufferer facial massage techniques and other exercises that should prevent this problem from occurring.
Surgical Options for Bell’s Palsy Treatment
At one point, decompression surgery was a common treatment method of Bell’s Palsy, but it is a treatment method that is rarely used today. The lasting complications of the surgery, including hearing loss, make this treatment method less than ideal. In very rare but severe cases, plastic surgery might be recommended in order to help resolve the issues caused by Bell’s Palsy.
In addition to the treatment options listed above, a doctor might recommend other non-traditional treatment methods as well. Some of the methods that have been used to treat Bell’s Palsy include:
- Facial Massage
- Direct treatment – this is used when the underlying problem that caused the nerve damage, such as an infection, is found and can be addressed directly
Bell’s Palsy and Eye Considerations
One potential effect of Bell’s Palsy is eye dryness or damage. This is especially likely when the paralysis makes it difficult for the patient to shut one of his or her eyes. When suffering from this problem, it is important to take immediate steps to resolve this issue. A doctor should prescribe ocular lubricants for the patient so that no permanent eye damage is done.
No matter the treatment plan, it is important that a doctor continue to monitor the patient if the symptoms associated with Bell’s Palsy do not go away, as there are likely alternative treatment options available for patients. If the facial paralysis is still present after a few weeks, it might be a good idea to do further testing in order to ensure that there is not another problem causing the paralysis.