Bell’s Palsy

Bells Palsy hero

What Is it? Bell’s palsy, named for British physician Dr. Charles Bell, was first described in 1821. It is a sudden onset (usually over the course of 1-3 days, often overnight) of one-sided flaccid paralysis of the face. Flaccid paralysis means the muscles become hypotonic: soft and weak. This is a typical sign of peripheral motor nerve damage.

Common Myths

There is a myth amongst people that Bell’s palsy is an after effect of heart attack or another condition related to heart which is not true. It is true that sometimes heart attack causes facial paralysis but here the reason is entirely different.

Bell’s palsy affects about 30,000 – 40,000 people a year in the United States.

In the large majority of cases (80-85%), the facial weakness or paralysis is temporary. However, individuals who experience complete paralysis seem to have a poorer recovery rate with only 60% returning to normal.

The fact that Bell’s palsy is a diagnosis of exclusion becomes apparent in the course of the medical examination–the usual mode of examination is to rule out other disorders until only Bell’s palsy is left.

What doctors don’t tell you or maybe they don’t know is that 60% of Bell’s palsy patients actually have Lyme disease. The Bells Palsy effect is the Lyme moving into the Acute or Chronic stage. Many doctors especially out here on the West Coast don’t know much about Lyme or even give it merit. If you have Bell’s palsy you need to have a good Lyme test to rule it out, even then you may not have an accurate test.

Approximately 50% of Bell’s palsy cases clear up on their own within 1 month or less. For those individuals that do not find themselves so lucky, it’s important to begin a treatment regimen immediately to avoid potential long term nerve damage and prolonged facial paralysis. With so many treatment options currently available, it’s important to understand the positive and negative benefits of each and to choose the one that best suits you.

Often, no treatment is needed. Symptoms often begin to improve right away. However, it may take weeks or even months for the muscles to get stronger, and this may be frustrating.

Dos & Don'ts

Many doctors prescribe an antiviral and/or a steroid for Bell’s palsy, but there is some controversy about whether these drugs actually help. If you have Bell’s palsy they may want to put you on anti-viral medications or steroids. One or both of these will contribute to a negative result for a Lyme test. Standard testing is not recommended. This means the testing that you get where the results come back in three days. You need extensive testing (a FULL PANEL test) test # 6040 from Igenex 800.832.3200 you can have the test sent to you and Igenex will pay for the test to be sent back return shipping the cost is approx. $ 450.

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